Archive for Google
Jetpac is best known as the iOS app that is able to recommend restaurants, bars, and attractions based on their analyses of Instagram photographs by the thousands. Google has announced that they were able to acquire Jetpac (for a indeterminate amount of money), meaning that iOS users will lose the company’s app come September 15, 2014. Speculation suggests of course that Google will integrate Jetpac’s neural network technology into upcoming versions of their own apps, like Maps.
There is no exact science behind the scenes in how Jetpac works, other than it does represent highly advanced image processing. It’s actually rather clever… Jetpac takes every single detail from every single photograph and makes it relevant. While similar services may deliver recommendations based on the reviews provided by users, Jetpac makes carefully calculated assumptions: the more people captured leaving a restaurant with a smile, the better the odds are that you will also enjoy eating there. This concept is exciting on its own, but they take it a step further by reviewing the other photographs users have associated with their accounts. This may mean that the coffee shop you are being directed toward has resulted in satisfied dog lovers twice as often than those with a stronger affection for cats.
Who knows what Google really has planned, but with their strong interest in artificial intelligence combined with their renewed attention to online social elements, the marriage of the two companies seems like a great idea.
Rumours have swirled for several months now that suggest Google is readying to launch a You-Tube branded subscription music service. New details tell us that this service will be called YouTube Music Key. It is a little confusing of course, because the tech giant already has their Google Play All Access service –though all signs point to the two being joined.
Features of the service compare to the competition, offering: ad-free playback, the ability to save songs and videos for offline listening, and an optional audio-only interface.
The cost for YouTube Music Key is a very reasonable $9.99 per month (following a free 30-day trial) and is expected to include access to the Google Play and YouTube Music Key services together.
A date for the official launch hasn’t been announced, but it appears we are getting very close!
An update to Google+ this week came in under the radar, but is a little exciting for Android users who have longed for the full functionality that Apple’s Airplay offers iOS users with an Apple TV: thanks to a small Chromecast button found in the interface, you can view your stream up on your television. Oddly, the change isn’t visible in the Google Play changelog –but it’s definitely there.
Initial functionality is limited: you can automatically loop through recent Google+ posts from people in your circles with the option to pause the loop or view posts one at a time.
Any Chromecast updates are updates are welcomed by the Android community with open arms, even though most people will find it more convenient to view this kind of content directly on the device.
In my experience, the best reasons to use AirPlay (and now Chromecast) are related to the occasional sharing of content with friends and not so much to take advantage of a large screen for personal use.
If you haven’t yet installed Google+ for Android, download it now for free.
Friends of mine have voted me ‘most likely to get lost at the mall’. I have a terrible sense of direction, combined with an even worse memory… which adds up to plenty of time wandering aimlessly through parking lots trying to remember exactly where I last saw my car. Of course, there are oodles of apps that will help you out in these situations, but you are already using Google Now for so many other things, adding features like this just make it more indispensable.
Most of those other parking helper apps require you to specify your location before walking away from the vehicle (allow me to refer back to my comment regarding my terrible memory, as this would involve my needing to remember that I need to remember). Brilliantly, Google Now uses sensors in your device to determine when you were last inside a previously moving vehicle. From there, the app supposes when you have left that vehicle and notes the location (along with the time, which can be helpful).
Enabling this feature inside of Google Now is as easy as specifying your main mode of transportation to be “Driving” as seen in the image above.
It may not always deliver perfect results, but it sure does beat wandering around parking lots with my key fob in the air trying to sound my horn.
With the pilot phase completed, Google Classroom is now live for all Google Apps for Education users. Designed to be a free learning management system, Classroom laces together the functionality found within Google Drive, Docs, and Gmail in an effort to help teachers “save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students.”
Behaving as a support system, tools like Classroom aim to minimize the administrative effort required by teachers so they can focus more on educating their students instead of pushing paper. Designed to offer a paperless assignment workflow, teachers are able to create, review, and grade assignments quickly and easily. If students are struggling to complete activities, or need additional help, educators are able to collaborate and communicate with individuals directly –offering assistance as it is required.
Students are also supported by Classroom, with an Assignments page that lets them keep track of assignments and their due dates. Parents will also appreciate this centralized hub approach as it provides a realistic overview of what their child should be working on, as well as the specifications for each item.
Other features of the system include: student and teacher participation in class discussions, sharing resources among classmates, and access to class materials (which can be automatically filed into folders in Google Drive). Security is also a critical part of Classroom; there are no ads, and the content (including student data) is never used for advertising purposes.
Classroom brings Google’s educational offering full circle: Google laptops run Google apps that allow students to complete assignments through Google Classroom. This strategy is not a foreign concept, you may recall just how many Apple personal computers were in schools during the early 1980′s –this was no coincidence. Increasing adoption of Google products and services is almost certainly going to increase brand loyalty: when these students mature into smartphones and tablets, they will be familiar with Google and there will be a feeling of compatibility… and the rest of the family is likely to follow suit.
During the pilot phase, more than 100,000 educators located in more than 45 countries signed up and provided feedback and suggestions.
With the wide range of devices and active versions of the Android operating system out there, complaints that the platform is severely fragmented are justified. Fortunately, KitKat is starting to gain some ground and now enjoys an install rate of over 20% –this is a good thing. July of this year was sitting at a 17.9% adoption rate, which was a jump over June at 14.9%.
Slow and steady wins the race, so they say, and this kind of continual improvement is a more significant sign than the number itself. Understandably, older Android releases are declining, with releases like Ice Cream Sandwich falling nearly to the single digits for percentage of installs.
Which version of Android a device is running becomes significant when discussing operating fundamentals like security, it is difficult to speak about the platform as a whole when there are so many varieties running with so many patch levels. It is also important to developers trying to create apps: each version of Android supports a particular set of tools and capabilities.
By comparison, Apple boasts that nearly 90% of all devices are running their latest operating system (iOS 7).
I love my Apple TV. I hate my Apple TV remote. I have taken its’ name in vain on more than one occasion, usually about the time I’ve lost it yet again and I tear apart the couch trying to find that slippery silver sliver (say that three-times fast). As much as I hate that thing, the image shown by former Pixar employee, Randy Nelson, is believed to be the Google TV remote… and it is worse.
At first glance I actually thought it was a label maker; it is overwhelming, large, and ugly. It isn’t the simplicity of the Apple TV remote that drives me crazy, it’s simply the size –the designers were right when they decided that only three buttons are necessary: stop, start and home. Sure it’s cool that the Google TV remote offers so many features and functions, but for day-to-day life, I don’t need to point something at my television that could launch a space shuttle. Not only that, how do I teach my kids to use it? Or worse yet, my mother (sorry mom!).
If you ask me, I believe Jacob Siegal over at BGR said it right: “Google TV remote is an Apple TV remote designed by committee.”
For those of us eagerly watching to see how great Google TV will be, let’s hope this isn’t actually what the remote looks like.
Following the implementation of an end-to-end encryption upgrade by Google to their Gmail service, Yahoo has announced that by 2015 their email offering will also use the same security enhancements.
Yahoo’s Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, took the opportunity during his speech at the recent Black Hat conference to discuss these upgrades and note that increased security measures will help users of their email service to “communicate in an encrypted manner with other Yahoo Mail users, but also with Gmail users and eventually with other email systems that adopt similar methodologies.”
Also of interest is the announcement that the source code for the upgrades will be available to the open source community, allowing for further refinement and testing.
According to Google, future security enhancements will include Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption for Gmail –it is expected that Yahoo will follow suit with a similar offering.
Between 425 million Gmail users and 273 million Yahoo Mail users –securing email traffic between these services is a significant improvement.
Next month, Spring and Google will begin working together for the good of enterprise customers. According to a new agreement, Sprint business users will be granted full access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Sites, Google Drive and Google Docs.
Mike Fitz, vice president of business solution commercialization at Spring Business made a statement regarding the new relationship with Google, stating: “Sprint offers a variety of mobile tools to accommodate multigenerational work styles within the workplace, helping people to boost productivity and collaborate from virtually anywhere.” With the addition of Google services, Sprint has the largest offering among its competitors, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
From Google’s side of the table, the comments were equally positive. Murali Sitaram, director of strategic partnerships for Google Enterprise noted: “Google Apps helps businesses work better together with familiar tools they can trust. We are pleased to welcome Sprint to the Google Apps Partner Program, where they will provide Google Apps and added services to help customers work the way they live.”
In order to purchase the Google Apps suite, users are not required to be current Sprint customers –but clearly the company is hoping that everyone eventually will.
Every person with a smartphone or tablet has experienced the frustration of a free (but not so free) app; you download it, you install it, you go to run it… and find that it’s so bogged down with ads and purchase options that it’s nearly impossible to use. In North America, many classify these apps as being Freemium. Beginning in September, Google has reached an agreement with the European Union that indicates no title offering in-app purchases (IAP) can be labeled as free.
The approach Google will take involves a change to the way app pricing is listed. Once implemented, a title will not be designated as free unless it also carries no IAP.
While it is easy to understand the motivation behind these changes, the main catalyst appears to be parents whose children have unwittingly racked up serious charges by downloading game add-ons. What isn’t being considered is that no price listing is a replacement for supervision and education: any child capable of entering payment information (even by way of just knowing the password) will download any app they want, regardless of the way a price is listed.
Apple has also been tapped to make these changes, but the company has yet to commit to anything specific, indicating they have no “concrete and immediate solutions”.