Category: Google

Songza Google logo

It was bound to happen eventually. Google has made its official countermove to Apple’s recent acquisition of Beats, with the purchase of the music streaming service, Songza.

In an official announcement today, Google revealed that they have purchased music streaming service, Songza. The application has been popular on both iOS and Android for quite some time, so its certainly an app that has plenty of credence in the market. Perhaps not surprising, but the 40-person Songza team will now be assimilated into the Google machine. Songza has said on their website that nothing in the immediate future will change, and that the application will continue forward without issue. However, in a related report by The Wall Street Journal, Google plans on incorporating the application/service into its own Google Play All Music service.

As one can imagine, this is seen as a direct reply to Apple’s acquisition of Beats, which included Beats Music, a music streaming service.

Do you, or have you used Songza in the past? What did you think of it?

[via Songza]

Screen Shot 2013 07 25 at 15.47.35 520x245 Chromecast streaming will be supported by Google TV: Can both platforms coexist?

The technology behind Chromecast, Google’s tiny $35 dongle that allows viewers to stream content to their regular TV from a smartphone, tablet or laptop, is also coming to Google TV.

Warren Rehman, a Google employee who works on “secret stuff and Google TV”, said on Google+ yesterday: “I’m still gainfully employed working on Google TV – no it isn’t dead, and yes it will support Cast.”

Chromecast seems like an effortless solution for watching content stored online by high-profile streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube. Similar to Apple TV though, Google TV has a much wider range of apps and services built right into the box – no secondary device required – and acts as an intermediary for users’ existing cable or satellite TV hardware. A bit like what Microsoft is planning with the Xbox One.

Chromecast will therefore not replace Google TV. At least not yet. Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP for Android, Chrome and Apps, emphasized how the two would co-exist in an interview with AllThingsD yesterday. He said Google TV would soon “be a full-fledged Android for television” and expected to announce new partners at the CES industry trade show next January.

Bundling Chromecast’s streaming technology into Google TV will make the latter a far more compelling product and also appease existing owners. It likely won’t be enough, however, to make Google TV the breakout success that the technology giant has always dreamed of.

The true test will be if and when Apple launches its much rumored and highly anticipated Apple TV successor. Google will need to be able to offer a solid counter-argument; Chromecast support should be but one part of its marketing artillery.

84469500 520x245 WSJ: Google working on a set top box with a video camera and a motion sensor

On the heels of the unveiling of Google’s new Chromecast TV dongle, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company is developing a more feature-rich set-top box that would include a video camera for Hangouts and a motion sensor.

According to the newspaper’s sources, a prototype of the device was showed off behind closed doors at CES earlier this year.

It was clear from Google’s event this week that Chromecast is just one piece in the puzzle to occupy the living room. The company confirmed that the Google TV platform will get support for the Chromecast streaming technology.

IMG 9656 730x486 WSJ: Google working on a set top box with a video camera and a motion sensor

Google SVP for Android, Chrome and Apps Sundar Pichai told AllThingsD on Wednesday that Google TV is soon to be a “full-fledged Android for television”. He also teased that more partners would be announced at next year’s CES.

The Journal went on to note that it was unsure whether Google has continued work on the set-top box prototype, which was said to have access to Android games and the Google Play Store. At the least, the overwhelming customer response to the Chromecast, which originally came with a generous Netflix promotion that quickly sold out, should help validate the Chrome and Google TV teams’ efforts to augment the TV.

With Microsoft billing its next-generation console as an “all-in-one entertainment system” and Apple tinkering with its Apple TV hobby, Google will find itself up against serious competition next year as it moves forward with Google TV. Still, it’s a trillion-dollar market, so it’s not likely to get too crowded soon.

Headline image credit: iStockphoto

Eiffel Tower

Google has extended its Street View imagery to the top two viewing decks of the Eiffel Tower for the very first time, giving users a breathtaking view of the Parisian skyline from the famous French monument. The Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument globally – some 7 million people visit and ascend the monument each year – but Google is now opening the iconic structure up to absolutely everyone on the Web. Google employees took the Street View trolley, an image capturing device that looks exactly as you would expect, to both the second and top floors to capture the entire circumference of the viewing decks with all-new 360-degree photographs. The results are breathtaking and still trigger an inevitable sense of awe; it was the highest monument in the world for 40 years, although that title is now held by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – a building which Google has also scaled for its Street View image library.

Read the full story at The Next Web.

Google Drive

Google has begun experimenting with encrypting Google Drive files, a privacy-protective move that could curb attempts by the U.S. and other governments to gain access to users’ stored files. Two sources told CNET that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is actively testing encryption to armor files on its cloud-based file storage and synchronization service. One source who is familiar with the project said a small percentage of Google Drive files is currently encrypted. The move could differentiate Google from other Silicon Valley companies that have been the subject of ongoing scrutiny after classified National Security Agency slides revealed the existence of government computer software named PRISM. The utility collates data that the companies are required to provide under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – unless, crucially, it’s encrypted and the government doesn’t possess the key.

Read the full story at CNET.

After a few weeks of rumors, Google just announced the latest device in its Chromebook lineup: the Chromebook Pixel. Unlike previous Chromebook versions, the Pixel is aimed at power users who fully live in the cloud. The device features an impressive array of hardware specs. It has a 12.85 inch high-density 2560 1700 screen (that’s 4.3 million pixels) with a 3:2 aspect ratio, an Intel Core i5 processor and a whopping 1 terabyte of free storage on Google Drive for three years.

Google will also soon launch a version with a built-in LTE radio and has partnered with Verizon to offer 100 MB/month for two years of mobile broadband and with GoGo to offer 12 free in-flight Wi-Fi sessions.

The Pixel’s screen, which is obviously the highlight of the device, features a pixel density of 239 pixels per inch. That’s a bit higher than the 220 pixels/inch on the Macbook Pro with a Retina display, so Google proudly notes that its laptop “has the highest pixel density of any laptop display.”

The basic Wi-Fi version of the Pixel will retail for $1,299 in the U.S. and 1,049 in the U.K. The Pixel is now available on Google Play and will also be available at select Best Buy locations in the U.S. and Currys PC World in the U.K. tomorrow. The LTE version ($1,449) will ship in the U.S. in April. The other difference between the LTE and Wi-Fi models is that the LTE version will ship with a 64GB solid-state drive and the Wi-Fi version will only have 32GB.

Google did not disclose who its hardware partners are, but the company did say that the device is being assembled in Taiwan.

“I think the hardware shines,” Google VP Sundar Pichai said at a press event in San Francisco today. Google, Pichai stressed, wanted to build a device for power users who live in the cloud. “There’s a set of users who are really committed to living completely in the cloud,” he said, and Google wanted to build the perfect laptop for them.

The first thing users will definitely notice when they first open the Pixel is the screen. Not only does it have a very high resolution, but it also features a relatively unusual aspect ration of 3:2. According to Pichai, the reason for this was that Google looked at what people would do with this device, and given that the web still focuses on content that is meant to be displayed horizontally, the design team decided to discard the idea of a screen with the more typical 16:10 resolution and went with 3:2.

The screen, Google says, includes a 0.55mm layer of touch-enabled Gorilla Glass fused directly to the screen. Google says this screen “gives you smooth interactions while preserving picture clarity” and after some hands-on time with the device, Google definitely isn’t exaggerating the quality of the screen, which definitely measures up to Apple’s Retina displays.

Google also stressed that this is a very premium device (something that’s obviously reflected in the price). Pichai, for example, noted that the piano hinge has the feel of a “very premium car door” and the team added rounded corners to the aluminum body to make it feel better when you hold it. Google also stressed that it redesigned numerous components and often had to resort to designing its own parts to meet its specs. The team, for example, added a third microphone to the device so it not only cancels out background noise, but also the noise you make yourself when you type on the keyboard (the Pixel has a 720p webcam for Google Hangouts and other video chats, too).

Despite the premium price and components, Sundai stressed that the overall philosophy behind the Chromebook project hasn’t changed. The Pixel, however, is meant for power users. “We also wanted to design something very premium for power users – people who spend money on their laptops,” he said at today’s presentation. The idea behind Chrome, Google says, “has always been to minimize the ‘chrome’ of the browser. In much the same way, the goal of the Pixel is to make the pixels disappear, giving people the best web experience.”

Chrome itself, of course, has also been optimized for touch, which Pichai believes will soon be on every laptop. The menus are now larger and easier to click on with your fingers.

Asked about how the Pixel compares to the Macbook Air, Pichai noted that the Pixel has a higher resolution and a touch screen, something Apple doesn’t currently offer – especially on a 12-inch device.

The price, of course, definitely puts the Pixel in a premium category and it remains to be seen how the market will react to it. It is, no doubt, the best Chromebook on the market today and the hardware, including the fit and finish of the device, is very impressive. At $1,299 for the basic version, though, some potential buyers may decide to opt for a premium Apple laptop or Ultrabook instead.

Here are the full hardware specs:

Gorilla Glass multi-touch screen
Backlit Chrome keyboard
Fully clickable, etched-glass touchpad
HD Webcam

12.85″ display with a 3:2 aspect ratio
2560 x 1700, at 239 PPI
400 nit screen
178 extra-wide viewing angle
297.7 x 224.6 x 16.2 mm3.35lb / 1.52kg PORTS
2 x USB 2.0
mini-display port
2-in-1 card reader supporting: SD, MMC

Intel Core i5 processor (Dual Core 1.8GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Integrated)

32 GB solid state drive (64 GB for LTE model)AUDIOHeadphone/microphone jack
Built-in microphone array
Integrated DSP for noise cancellation
Powerful speakers tuned for clarityINDUSTRIAL DESIGN
Active cooling with no visible vents
Machined from anodized aluminum

Up to 5 hours of active use (59 Wh battery)NETWORK
Dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2 2
Bluetooth 3.0GOODIES
One terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage, free for 3 years
12 free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet
100 MB/month for 2 years of mobile broadband from Verizon Wireless (LTE model). Carrier terms and conditions apply.

 Google will soon allow Chrome passwords to be synced to Android devices

Google is set to enable a new feature in Chrome for Android that will allow mobile users to synchronise passwords between their desktop Chrome installation and their Android device, adding a feature that has been available in Chrome for iOS for quite a while.

The feature, spotted by Chrome tinkerer Fran ois Beaufort on the Chromium Code Review website, was discussed by Chrome’s development team a little more than a week ago, and has already been committed to the Chromium code base.

Google already syncs bookmarks and other data, but until recently, passwords were out of bounds.

The page notes: “Android does not support password sync, enable password sync for clients which have migrated to using Keystore. Currently, passwords will start syncing only when sync-keystore-encryption flag is specified on the command line.”

As Beaufort notes, users can enable the flag “Sync keystore encryption” in chrome://flags inside their browser to prepare for the feature. However, as the flag will allow the app to modify sync data, it could unintentionally corrupt or change information, so it’s worth waiting until Google introduces it and spells out the necessary steps.

Given the fact that the code has been committed, we could see Google add the feature to Chrome Beta for Android, which just yesterday saw an update that finally allowed users to easily toggle WebGL support and render 3D graphics and animations.

Once the feature has been tested and approved, it would then be moved across to the stable version, which the majority of Android device owners will run on their smartphone or tablet.

Image Credit: shankrad/Flickr

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