Archive for Google
Google has come up with a new set of guidelines for developers to follow, all aimed at establishing a safe environment for apps to flourish. As per the new rules introduced in the Google Play Developer Program Policy, developers will have to ensure their apps does not engage in immoral activities or attempt to deceive users with nefarious advertising policies. This will make it difficult for developers to issue pop-up alerts mimicking official Android notifications. Developers will also be barred from sending unsolicited SMSs for advertising purposes.
Developers often resort to issuing Windows-esque dialog boxes warning users of their systems being prone to serious malware infections and other threats, thereby luring unsuspecting users to download various apps. The new amendment also enforces a clampdown on developers using sexually explicit content to promote such apps. Developers will also be barred from indulging in app installs or redirection to the Google Play Store without explicit user consent.
Google has stated developers will have 15 days time to comply with the new guidelines before it starts banning apps that don’t conform to the changed rules.
The new amendment is the latest in a series of new measures that Google had introduced in ensuring its only quality apps that make it to the Play Store.
Google Glass hasn’t proven to be as successful as its makers may have expected it to be. To make matters worse, wearable tech users are even open to charges of invasion of privacy. Nevertheless, Google has hit upon new ways to make its wearable tech more appealing to the masses, such as its recent deal with Luxottica, owners of the immensely popular eyeglass brands Ray Ban and Oakley. This will hopefully push wearables into mainstream fashion rather than being seen as a niche product.
“We believe that a strategic partnership with a leading player like Google is the ideal platform for developing a new way forward in our industry and answering the evolving needs of consumers on a global scale,” said Luxottica Chief Executive Officer Andrea Guerra.
According to the new agreement, a special team of experts from Google and Luxottica will be tasked with designing a new range of frames that will be compatible with Google Glass. This will help ensure mass availability of the internet connected eye wear, which so far has been restricted to the US. The price is expected to drop a bit, which is extremely important in order for smart glasses to grow. Google will also have the advantage of Luxottica’s extensive market presence in its efforts to make its smart glasses more alluring to buyers.
As of now, only the Ray Ban and Oakley brands are included in the Google Glass plan, though it’s not known when the first frames are expected to hit the streets. In any case, these will supplement Google’s own line of frames that launched earlier this year. However, some key aspects pertaining to Google Glass still need to be resolved, including battery issues.
Pebble is off to a solid start, if the over 400,000 smartwatches it sold in 2013 is any indication. Unofficial estimates put revenues earned at an impressive $60 million, something that is expected to double by the end of the year.
One of the factors leading tothe success of Pebble is the robust development team comprised of 1,200 developers who continue to make and refine apps. Currently there are around 1,000 apps available for Android and iOS.
Pebble might have their work cut out for them to really shine in the wearables market. Google recently launched Android Wear, a version of Android dedicated for smart watches. The launch of the new Google SDK is showing up already in the new LG G Watch and nifty Moto 360, which has turned a few heads with its visual aesthetics.
Google is going in for a no holds barred approach to the smart wearable segment, which the giant has claimed as the next hot zone, high stakes battleground for all the biggest tech companies. To that end, Google has come up with an Android smartwatch concept. Dubbed Android Wear, it will no doubt spur companies to develop smartwatches based on the Google OS. The manufacturers were forced to customize the standard Android OS for this, but it’s unlikely to be limited to smartwatches alone. To showcase its capabilities, Google collaborated with LG to develop the G Watch, the smartwatch equivalent of the Nexus 5. The Moto 360 from Motorola is the only other smartwatch released that is based on Android Wear.
The functionality and ease of access to data has been given the highest priority. Users can have all the data that they need and at the right moment. Not surprisingly, personal fitness is one aspect of the new Android version. Users can look forward to Android Wear-equipped smartwatches as the perfect fitness companion, providing them with reminders or other relevant information such as time, distance, and speed information in real time.
Android Wear also incorporates Google Now into the smartwatch. For it to respond, all the user has to say is “Okay Google.” “Say ‘Ok Google’ to get stuff done, like calling a taxi, sending a text, making a restaurant reservation or setting an alarm,” Sunder Pichai revealed in a company blog post.
Having notifications from social feeds and other sources is almost imperative for the device to vie as a worthy complement, and Android Wear does not disappoint on this front. Suitable apps are all designed to keep the user informed, like the incorporated Google Maps.
The Moto 360–slated for a summer release–is Motorola’s answer to offering a smartwatch that is as much about style as functionality. The device incorporates the classic watch design with a circular dial and a knob along the side is reminiscent of a conventional watch, though it’s still not clear what function it serves. Overall, it’s sleek and stylish, but it will be interesting to see how long it’s going to last on a single charge. Users can hope that a smartwatch as cool as the Moto 360 isn’t just tied to a Motorola device, and ties up with Android devices from other manufacturers as well.
In contrast, the LG G Phone is a lot more “conventional” in that it incorporates a rectangular watch face as seen with most of its competitors. Not much is known of the G Watch except that it’s likely to be priced quite low, a familiar strategy adopted by the Nexus series of devices. Google stated they are working with several other manufacturers to develop more smartwatch device in future, which includes several fashion brands as well.
Meanwhile, here are some videos showcasing Android Wear.
The Transformer Book Duet was designed to offer the best of both worlds, Android and Windows. The device was first shown off at CES in Las Vegas and became one of the new computers that people started to obsess about. Apparently, Google and Microsoft were not consenting bedfellows and made Asus cancel the device.
The Book Duet Transformer hybrid laptop and tablet concept basically allowed users to switch between both Android and Windows with just the press of either a tab on the display or a special button on the keypad unit. The best thing with the entire set up was that there wasn’t the need for restarting the device each time one needed to switch OS.
However, with mounting pressure from both Google and Microsoft, Asus has caved to the pressure. Microsoft said that they have stopped supporting dual OS devices with a new policy. Google basically said that they don’t want to give Microsoft a foothold into an industry where they haven’t had much success and want to stop the Redmond company from piggybacking.
With an already overwhelming presence in the mobile devices segment, Google now wishes to engage with consumers at a more deeper and personal level. The search giant made that amply clear at the SXSW with Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai announcing the launch of a SDK that will enable developers to make apps for wearables. Right now that seems to be applicable more to smartwatches and fitness tracking devices, though Pichai is envisioning the wearable segment to get more and more intimate in the coming years. Maybe we can have smart jackets in future, or even a smart device implanted under the skin to keep track of vital health parameters at all times.
Coming back to the present, Pichai promised the SDK will be made available in just about 2 weeks’ time. This will be accompanied with the way Google perceives the smart wearable segment to evolve in the next couple of years. The company also stated they will come up with a version of Android for use in smartwatch devices. The new OS variant will draw heavily from Google Now and search feature and is expected to be launched towards the end of this month. Google is also reported to be collaborating with LG Electronics in developing a smartwatch of its own in what surely is going to be the Nexus equivalent of a smartwatch device. The smartwatch is slated for launch in June during the Google I/O conference.
The above development is accompanied by similar efforts on part of Google to have its OS be seen in almost as many segments as possible. Back in January, Google had announced the Open Automotive Alliance the comprises of car makers such a GM, Hyundai, Audi, Honda Motors as well chipmaker Nvidia that looked for ways to implement the Google Android OS for use in the automotive sector.
The Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 seems to have been delayed indefinitely and Google is tipped to have played a part in it, as per a report carried by Digitimes. The reasons are obvious as Google feels the device that dual boots both Windows and Android would provide an undue advantage to Windows that is struggling to gain a foothold in the mobile OS segment. Such a device is being perceived to allow Windows to piggyback on Google’s Android on the path to success that Google had so painstakingly created over the years. Such a scenario could also lead to Google having to wage a two front war, with the Apple iOS on the one hand and Windows on the other.
This isn’t the first time though that Google is believed to have forced its hardware partners to cancel projects involving dual booting devices. A Samsung ATIV model that could dual boot both Android and Windows was reportedly pulled off given Google’s concerns over letting Windows build on the success Android has made.
The Transformer Book Duet TD300 device was unveiled at the CES event early this year and had attracted a fair bit of consumer response. The one most distinct capability of the device was that it came with a key on the keypad that allows users to toggle between either Android or Windows operating systems. The same could also be invoked via a tab on the tablet as well and was being hailed as a device that would be just right for both business and domestic usage. Chipmaker Intel too had been seen actively promoting the Transformer Book Duet TD300. Currently, it is only Intel chips that can support dual booting of both Android and Windows.
The Transformer Book Duet TD300 was scheduled to be launched by the second half of 2014 though its not known now when is that going to happen.
Android has emerged as one of the most popular operating systems in use today. That devices running Android has outsold all its competitors in 2013 is no doubt a good measure of its popularity, beating even Apple iOS in the process. The online search giant has now upped the ante claiming its mobile OS has proved to be the fastest to reach the top.
“I mean, look, in the history of operating systems, I think Android has been the quickest and most successful adoption of an operating system in the world. So you just sort of stop, take pause and say, oh my God, that’s crazy. Nobody could have ever predicted that we’re going to get an operating system adopted in an industry, which has so many different OEMs, manufacturing with their own operating systems having adopted around the world,” said Nikesh Arora, senior vice president at Google while speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
First acquired by Google in 2005, Android (the company also of the same name) has since seen several upgrades. However, as stated by Google, the OS first attained a level of maturity from the Ice Cream Sandwich version. The OS then attained newer heights with the upgrade to Jelly Bean which continues to be the most used version of Android so far. Google has since launched the Android KitKat version, the most recent so far.
However, to completely ignore Apple’s iOS when discussing the most successful of mobile OS’s will be just half the story told. Apple devices such as the iPad and the iPhone continue to be the single largest tablet and smartphone brand respectively, outselling any of its Android competitors by a healthy margin. It’s just that the iOS got swamped by an operating system that is based on a completely different business strategy. Android is doled out free enabling any manufacturers to use it as per their will. In contrast, Apple maintains a vice like grip over iOS and is the only maker of gadgets based on it. In any case, it will be interesting to see how things pan out now that Android has proven to be more popular than iOS.
Android tablets are out on top, beating Apple for the first time ever and by a comprehensive margin. Figures revealed by analysts Gartner show that Apple has had a 36 percent share of the tablet market in 2013, almost half that of the 62 percent share that Android has had for the same period. Android accounted for 121 million tablet sales in 2013, compared to 70 million iPads sold. In all, 195 million tablet devices were sold in 2013.
For Apple, the results were in spite of registering a growth over its 2012 sales where 61 million iPads were sold. That number translated to a 53 percent share of the tablet market. For the same period, Android accounted for 46 percent share of the tablet market, or 53 million tablets.
Apple can still take consolation from the fact that the iPad continues to be the single largest tablet brand, outselling others by a comfortable margin. Samsung came in second, having sold 37 million tablets to equal a 19 percent market share, a huge improvement over the 7 percent market it had in 2012. Asus made up the third slot, having sold more than 11 million tablets, which comes to 5.6 percent share. Surprisingly, Amazon, who started the affordable tablet race, managed to sell just about 9 million tablets in 2013. Its market share dropped to 4.8 percent from 6.6 percent in 2012, making it the only manufacturer among the top 5 to record negative growth rate.
As for reasons behind the rise of the Android tablet, it is the emergence of low cost entry level tablet options that appears to have done the trick. For the first time, consumers had a lot of affordable tablet devices to choose from. Fortunately for them, these tablets offered decent specs in spite of the relatively cheap price tag. In contrast, the iPad caters to the premium segment that makes it within the reach of a distinct class of consumers. However, the challenge before Android is to ensure the huge user base who has invested in an Android tablet gets to have an endearing user experience so that they remain within the Android fold.
Further, both Apple and Google will have to watch out for a resurgent Windows platform that has registered growth in 2013. Though still quite insignificant with 2.1 percent market share and 4 million tablet sales, it could make for a much better performance in 2014 on the back of rumors of a thoroughly improved Windows 9. Also, the emergence of improved low power chips have led to better acceptance of Windows tablet which is poised for a take off if Microsoft gets its act together in providing for an enhanced software experience over Windows 8.1.
Android and malware seem to like each other very much, but Google is about to spoil it. The search giant is in the process of launching an update for its Play Services that will make is difficult for mischief makers to inject malware-infected apps into the Google app store. An update to Android’s Verify Apps function will now be made to work 24/7. Verify Apps will now be scanning apps at all times behind the scenes to find out if there are any issues to be dealt with. This will no doubt be a good thing given the popularity of the Google platform and recent reports that Android has the highest susceptibility to malware attacks.
The Verify Apps function was first introduced with Android 4.2 version but it would only verify an app when it went live at the Google Play Store or when an update was made available. Verify Apps will also look for issues in apps that a user might have installed directly and not via the official Google Play Store. It will search for known trouble making codes and when a match is found, it will notify the user via warning messages.
According to Google, it will be relevant for almost 99 percent of devices running Android. While some developers choose to bypass the Google strategy of matching apps against known codes by launching some advanced codes, these no doubt will eventually get caught once Google becomes aware of the malicious codes. Now it comes down to how often Google updates its own database of malicious codes. In any case, this is an excellent development considering the threat level associated with Android.
If 2013 was the year of tablet devices, it’s wearable smart devices that are proving to be big in 2014. There has been a mad rush to offer smart wearables, be it smartwatches, fitness tracking bands, and smart glasses like Google Glass. Now, Digitimes reports that upstream supply chain manufacturers have increased production of components that go into the making of smart devices.
Suppliers also claim to have received requests to increase R&D in technologies pertaining to smart wearables from front line companies such as Google, LG Electronics, Samsung, and Apple. Samsung has already launched a trio of Galaxy Gear smartwatches and fitness trackers while Google has made substantial investments in the field, having acquired several companies with a presence in the smart wearable segment. LG and Apple are yet to delve into the new segment, though the Cupertino-based company is already rumored to be in an advanced stages of developing a smartwatch.
Some of the suppliers confirm their rising interests in bendable components, which no doubt indicates a wave of wearable devices coming out soon; another trend is a growing interest among manufacturers to target the fitness segment with suitable smart devices.
Close on the heels of Google having to deal with some uncomfortable tax evading accusations in Europe, the search giant is facing a somewhat similar scenario in South Africa as well. Google has drawn the ire of the local media company Naspers, which has accused the company of following unscrupulous business practices in the African nation by not only denying the country its rightful share of taxes but also making it difficult for the domestic publishing industry to remain competitive.
“Google clearly has a dominant position in the South African market and local digital publishers would benefit if the playing fields were leveled, making global companies abide by the same rules, price structures and economics faced by smaller local businesses. In the digital age, we accept that we compete with businesses from all over the world. However, it is clearly wrong that, as we invest in building a taxpaying business employing hundreds of South Africans, we are competitively disadvantaged through aggressive tax-planning strategies of global businesses,” says 24.com CEO Geoff Cohen.
Google is estimated to have caused the national exchequer a loss of R140 million per year in corporate taxes. Rough estimates put the loss to another R100 million in PAYE.
Google has denied the allegation, saying it follows South Africa’s tax laws and those of every other country where it has set up operations. The company further argued that the onus is on its advertisers to report and remit value-added tax (VAT). While current laws cannot hold Google accountable for reporting VAT, that is set to change April 1 as digital goods suppliers and services will be brought under the reach of VAT.
Google further stated it also helps the domestic publishing industry to grow by driving traffic to their sites via organic search results, as well as through Google news.
24.com, which happens to be Nasper’s online publishing arm, is not convinced and is seeking changes in the current tax system to make companies like Google accountable. “Considering the rapid growth rate of digital advertising, it remains to be seen whether, and if, South African tax legislation will be amended quickly enough to adapt to this critical issue,” said 24.com sources.
However, it will be interesting to note that this isn’t the first time that Nesper has hurled allegations against Google. The South Africa-based media company had earlier taken Google to court in Poland and Brazil on similar charges. The matter is sub-judice in Brazi, even though Google won the first round there.
Google has been up to some interesting changes in its hardware division. While its decision to sell off the Motorola smartphone segment to Lenovo tops the list, there also are a few rumors that are worth paying attention to. First is the rumor that Google is contemplating killing off the Nexus brand as a whole, to be replaced by Google Play Edition devices.
However, while that isn’t expected (if at all it happens) before 2015, there are also some who believe Google might launch an 8 inch Nexus branded tablet. That idea stems from a recent revelation by Taiwan based upstream supply chain makers who claim Google is likely to launch the 8 inch Nexus by late April. Also, as reported in Digitimes, there will be 2 million devices to start off with.
While that is yet to be confirmed officially, what can’t be denied is that it makes a lot of sense to have an 8 inch in your tablet portfolio. The 7 inch tablet segment has come under increased competition from the smartphone segment that has been steadily growing in size, so much that we even have a 6.4 inch device in the form of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra that offers calling capabilities; HP has 6 and 7 inch Voice Tablets that allow for voice calling, too. This has made manufacturers of 7 inch tablets to take refuge in 8 inch sized devices. This may have also led to a less than stellar run at the market for the Nexus 7 2013, so the Nexus 8 is believed to be a safe bet in such a scenario.