Google adds always-listening ‘OK Google’ voice activation to Chromebooks

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While “OK Google” capability has been available in the form of a Chrome extension for quite some time now, those using it had to be on a specific page within Chrome for the browser to be listening for the appropriate hot words. Now, Google has pushed—in the dev build of Chrome OS—the option for users to turn on always-listening “OK Google,” which will allow you to use voice activation from anywhere as long as your device is on and unlocked.

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Ruggedized Acer C740, C910 highlight new round of Chromebooks set to be announced at CES 2015

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Chromebooks have taken the bottom of the market sub-$300 category of laptops by storm over the last couple of years, and they’re expected to continue with that trend going into 2015. One of the devices that will be heading the charge is the Acer C740, which got leaked last week (via OMGChrome), and it’s said that at least one variation of it will be sporting one of Intel’s fifth-generation codename Broadwell chips—expected to be launched at CES in January.

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Smart Lock keeps your Chromebook unlocked using your Android Lollipop phone

 

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A new feature called Smart Lock has now made its way to Chromebooks, allowing users to keep their Chrome OS-running laptops unlocked by simply keeping their Lollipop Android phone in relative vicinity. The feature was first introduced earlier this year at Google I/O 2014, and has been part of Lollipop since the OS started rolling out last month. But only just now, about 6 months after it was shown off, is the feature rolling out to Chromebooks (via ComputerWorld) running the Dev Channel of Chrome OS.

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Google doles out free $20 Play credits to Chromecast owners

From 9to5Toys.com:
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Update (12/8 1:00pm): Target has Chromecast for $22.99. Redeem Google’s latest promo (below) to drop its effective price down to $2.99.

Google has just launched a new offer that extends a free $20 Google Play credit to anyone who purchases a Chromecast by December 21. According to the offer details, only Chromecasts purchased between December 7 and December 21 will be eligible for the free credit, but we were able to take advantage of it on our previously purchased Chromecasts.

You can check if you’re eligible for this promo by pointing your Chrome browser to chromecast.com/offers. The credit expires on January 31, 2016 and can be used on movies, music, apps, and other media. However, it can’t be used towards the purchase of any hardware. Only open to US residents.

Google Play, Amazon, and Best Buy are all promoting this offer for new Chromecast buyers.

At this point Google is pretty much paying you to own a Chromecast. Just recently, we’ve seen Google hand out free moviesHulu Plus and Play subscriptions.

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Google reveals plans for kid-friendly versions of Chrome, YouTube, Search, and more

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Earlier this year, a report emerged claiming that Google was hard at work making its services more appropriate and accessible for children. The report noted that the company wanted to overhaul its online products to allow children to legally use them. USA Today has now published a new report, confirming the rumors earlier this year regarding specific services catered to young kids. Google VP of Engineering Pavni Diwanji told the news outlet that Google is currently working on versions of its most popular products, such as Search and YouTube, for kids aged 12 and under.

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Chromecast cruises by Apple TV and nears Roku in latest home streaming market share numbers

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Google’s diminutive and cheap Chromecast is making strong headway against its competitors according to a report today by Parks Associates. Priced at $35 but now going for just over $20, the dongle, which is controlled by Apps on iOS and Android devices rather than a traditional remote has passed the almost forgotten Apple TV and is closing in on the king of streamers, the Roku.  Roku and AppleTV represented two thirds of the market last year but with entrants like Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV/Stick, the two dropped to around half the market.

The research finds Roku is still the leading brand with 29% of sales, but Google Chromecast (20%) has supplanted Apple TV (17%) in second place. New entrant Amazon Fire TV is in fourth place with 10%. Consumer content choices are also increasing, with Showtime and Sony planning to launch their own OTT video services to compete with Netflix and HBO.

“Nearly 50% of video content that U.S. consumers watch on a TV set is non-linear, up from 38% in 2010, and it is already the majority for people 18-44,” said Barbara Kraus, Director, Research, Parks Associates. “The market is changing rapidly to account for these new digital media habits. Roku now offers a streaming stick, and Amazon’s Fire TV streaming stick leaves Apple as the only top player without a stick product in the streaming media device category.”

Sticks are where it is at it would seem. Conversely, Google’s Nexus Player, introduced in October, has yet to make a blip but it might also show up in results next year.

Google sold more Chromebooks to US schools than Apple did iPads in Q3

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According to the latest data from IDC, Google, for the first time ever, has overtaken Apple in United States schools. The research firm claims that Google shipped 715,000 Chromebooks to schools in the third quarter, while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools. Chromebooks as a whole now account for a quarter of the educational market (via FT).

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Google bundling 1TB of Drive storage with the purchase of select Chromebooks

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Chromebook’s are becoming a viable option for people with simple computing needs, and while the laptop alternative typically ships with limited local storage, Google often tosses in 100GB of cloud space from Google Drive for two years. But to sweeten the pot this holiday season, the search giant is turning the dial up quite a few notches and tossing in 1TB of Drive storage with the purchase of an eligible Chromebook.

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Google rolling out Chrome OS update w/ Chromecast support in Google Drive and more

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Google has started rolling out an update to the stable channel of Chrome OS with a handful of notable enhancements.  The biggest feature for Chrome OS users is the addition of Chromecast support for media files stored in Google Drive. This means that when viewing a media file in Google Drive, a Chromecast icon will appear, allowing users to easily and quickly beam that content to their TV.

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Google’s new Bookmark Manager coming to Chrome Beta

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Today, Google announced plans to bring its new Bookmark Manager to Chrome’s beta build. Mountain View says it will release this new content management feature over the next few weeks, so it might not show up right away. Based on the project referred to as “Stars,” Google quietly released this item last month as a Chrome extension, however this new direction suggests that it will eventually be baked into the company’s popular browser.

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