Google plans to develop Game Center-like app

Apple introduced Game Center, an online multiplayer social gaming network, in 2010 that allows app users to invite friends, start multiplayer games, track achievements, and compare scores on a leader board, and now reports claim that Google is looking to develop a similar system for Android.

While not naming any sources, Business Insider claimed Google is developing a native Android app similar to Game Center, but the publication detailed Apple’s offering as “an app on the iPhone that connects players in most of Apple’s iOS games.” However, that description is selling the network short. Game Center comes standard with the current iOS, and Apple announced in February that the service would soon integrate with Mountain Lion, which is set for a late summer 2012 release (image, above).

Google’s flavor will allegedly include a social-based achievement system, as well as a leader board. The similar client would poise Google as a legitimate contender in the exploding mobile games market. Developers who build Android games use a variety of third-party solutions, like the iOS-compatible OpenFeint, but Google wants to create its own native app in the wake of Apple’s popularity with gaming.

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Facebook announces App Center for all platforms and devices

Facebook just announced that it is launching a new App Center—but it is not just for Facebook apps.

9to5Mac reported for months that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and company were planning a web-based alternative store to Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play dubbed “Project Spartan.” Speculation said the project is a framework for apps that would use social hooks, while working inside of Facebook’s ecosystem.

It seems those reports are ringing true, because the highly-anticipated HTML 5-based App Center will give Facebook users access to iOS, Android, web, mobile web, and desktop apps. Interestingly, Facebook reiterated that it is not competing directly with Apple or Google, because the App Center will send users to both the iOS and Android platforms. For example: If you are visiting Facebook’s App Center on an Android Device, and then enter Words with Friends, or one of the many Facebook-compatible games, you will soon beam to that app’s Google Play page for installation. The same holds true for iOS users.

“In the coming weeks, people will be able to access the App Center on the web and in the iOS and Android Facebook apps. All canvas, mobile and web apps that follow the guidelines can be listed. All developers should start preparing today to make sure their app is included for the launch,” explained Software Engineer Aaron Brady in a Facebook Developer’s blog post.

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Google purchases iconic Gold’s Gym in Venice, Los Angeles for new SoCal campus

According to a report by Jason Stern at MuscleWeek, the iconic Gold’s Gym in Venice, Los Angeles is set to close in 2014 after 45 years of operation. This would normally not be reported; however, Stern confirmed with the gym’s former owner, Ed Connors, that “Google has bought the building and the surrounding real estate and Los Angeles DUI attorney businesses with grand designs on walling off the streets and creating a SoCal campus to rival its Mountain View ‘university’.”

The worst-kept secret at Gold’s Gym in Venice is that the gym is closing its doors for good when its lease expires on June 30, 2014… Publicly, the gym management continues to emphasize (perhaps ‘misrepresent’ is a better word choice) that Gold’s Gym isn’t going anywhere, but for those in the know, it has become painfully clear that the clock is ticking down to zero…The result: Google Plus. Gold’s Minus.

Google has not confirmed its plans, but there were rumors last year that the company purchased the building home to the landmark Gold’s Gym location.
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Google: AT&T’s CEO doesn’t understand how Android phones get updated

Like us, Google appears to be confused by last night’s report—where AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson told a questioner that the fault of Android smartphones not receiving updates is Google’s.

Stephenson blamed Google, claiming, “Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard. We know that’s important to our customers. That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting.”

Google refuted that point of view tonight, telling us:

“Mr. Stephenson’s carefully worded quote caught our attention and frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to. Google does not have any agreements in place that require a negotiation before a handset launches.  Google has always made the latest release of Android available as open source at as soon as the first device based on it has launched. This way, we know the software runs error-free on hardware that has been accepted and approved by manufacturers, operators and regulatory agencies such as the FCC. We then release it to the world.”

Is it possible that the former CFO Stephenson does not know the technicalities of what is happening at his own company? It would appear so. Read more

Nevada has issued the first license for the Google self-driving car

Google has been issued the first license to test an autonomous vehicle, which makes it the first license of such kind to be issued in the United States. The Las Vegas Sun reported that the license was issued earlier today after such legislation passed in 2011 to allow testing of the self-driving car. However, under Nevada law, someone must be present behind the wheel. Google’s self-driving cars will feature a red license plate and an infinity symbol on the left side. The Mountain View, Calif.-based Company is currently testing eight of these vehicles—six of which are Toyota Priuses (seen above), an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450h.

Google received a ton of attention for its project, especially after one of its self-driving cars got in a fender-bender last year. But luckily, that was due to human error. It is going to be interesting to see what Google can make of these. Check out this inspirational video:

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NPD: Android holds 61 percent of total US smartphone sales in Q1 2012

Google’s Android controlled nearly two-thirds of the United States smartphone market in the year’s first quarter.

According to CNET, market research firm NPD Group placed Android’s U.S. market share at 61 percent, which is a dramatic gain from the holiday quarter’s 49 percent.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS slid from 41 percent in Q4 2011 to 29 percent in Q1 2012. It is assumed Apple’s October iPhone 4S launch boosted the holiday sales, but Android eventually reclaimed its Q3 2011 crown once the new year settled.

It is worth mentioning that advertising research company Neilsen measured the two smartphone OS manufacturers in March and placed Android at 49.5-percent and iOS at 32 percent for Q1 2012.

This article is cross-posted on 9to5Mac.

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Google boasts 2012 WWW conference contributions

Google just announced, well, boasted, about its involvement with the 2012 World Wide Web conference that occurred last month.

Vice President of Engineering Prabhakar Raghavan took to the Official Google Research Blog this afternoon to detail the search engine’s role in the widely popular and annual series. Google was a major supporter of the conference and even sponsored it, coupled with many Googlers having taken an active role through keynotes and papers.

“More than forty members of Google’s technical staff gathered in Lyon, France in April to participate in the global dialogue around the state of the web at the World Wide Web conference (WWW) 2012,” explained Raghavan. “A decade ago, Larry Page and Sergey Brin applied their research to an information retrieval problem and their work—presented at WWW in 1998—led to the invention of today’s most popular search engine.

The new VP further said Mobile Web in the technical program is becoming more apparent as the conference has “evolve[d] over the years,” and then he noted the WWW community is transitioning from a “classic ‘bag of words’ of web pages” to an “entity-centric view.”

Raghavan is Yahoo’s former chief scientist, but 9to5Google reported that he left the position in March to take an executive job at Google amid massive cuts at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based search engine.

A list of Googlers and their conference contributions is below:

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LG to release Google TV-enabled set in US in late May

LG Electronics announced it will release its anticipated Google TV-enabled television set in the United States during late May.

“Production of Google TVs will start from May 17 from our factory in Mexico and U.S. consumers will be able to buy the product from the week of May 21,” said Executive Vice President of LG’s TV business unit Ro Seogho to a group of reporters.

According to Reuters, Seogho further revealed that a launch in Europe and Asia would follow as long as the product performs well stateside.

Earlier this month, 9to5Google also reported LG’s 3D Google TV-enable sets would launch in early May.

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Google considering moving Motorola HQ to downtown Chicago

According to a report from Chicago Business (via The Verge), Google is considering moving Motorola Mobility’s main offices to Chicago. The report claims sources have confirmed the company is looking for 500,000 square feet of office space in downtown Chicago that could house up to 3000 employees, more than enough room for Motorola’s new headquarters. The report said those 3,000 employees would likely be relocated from Motorola’s current Libertyville HQ, but not involve those from its River North location:

Among the handful of sites under consideration are upper floors of the landmark Merchandise Mart in River North and Fulton Market Cold Storage, a large warehouse that’s slated for redevelopment in the West Loop, according to a source familiar with the matter… Top real estate executives from Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters have toured several downtown sites over the past several month.

ChicagoBusiness said acquiring the property is still dependant on Google completely closing the acquisition with approvals from regulators in China. Apart from its main campus in Mountain View, Google is no stranger to downtown offices with about 3,000 employees currently calling downtown Manhattan home at the company’s second largest World offices.
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Hangouts On Air is now available to all, allows recorded or live broadcasting

Google launched Hangouts On Air last year to select broadcasters, which allows recorded or live conversations with friends to broadcast, but today the search engine made the popular feature available to Google+ users worldwide.

Engineering Director Chee Chew explained the option’s functions on the Official Google Blog:

Today we’re excited to launch Hangouts On Air to Google+ users worldwide. So if you have something to say—as an aspiring artist, a global celebrity, or a concerned citizen—you can now go live in front of a global audience. With just a few clicks, you’ll be able to:

  • Broadcast publicly. By checking “Enable Hangouts On Air,” you can broadcast your live hangout—from the Google+ stream, your YouTube channel or your website—to the entire world.
  • See how many viewers you’ve got. During your broadcast, you can look inside the hangout to see how many people are watching live.
  • Record and re-share. Once you’re off the air, we’ll upload a public recording to your YouTube channel, and to your original Google+ post. This way it’s easy to share and discuss your broadcast after it’s over.

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says that Google prevents updates to Android devices

During the Q&A of a recent interview, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson said some interesting things about the Android ecosystem.

His statements are confusing, because we have been— up to this point—lead to believe that there is a straightforward way this works:

  1. Google open sources the Android OS.
  2. After that, manufacturers get the OS working on their devices with drivers and  (gawdforsaken) overlays.
  3. Finally, the carriers certify the OS on those devices (and add a bunch of crapware).

In a response to the questioner, Stephenson blamed Google, saying, “Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard. We know that’s important to our customers. That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting.”

He then goes on to explain how great Windows is and how he has been using it for a month. He also said Android needs to work on security.

While the questioner is speaking in the broader sense about getting his older Android device updated, it is possible that he is referring to the recent Galaxy Nexus that hit Verizon first in December. The GSM version of the Galaxy Nexus was available on AT&T before the release on Verizon (I was an early user) if you bought the phone without a plan. Read more

Google adds ‘Shared with me’ playlist to Google Play

When Google announced Google Music last year, it added the ability to share a song or album with your Google+ friends after you buy it. To compliment that feature, Google added a pretty cool “Shared with me” playlist to Google Play, which curates all the songs that your Google+ friends purchased. This is great, especially considering you get one free listen per song shared. Hopefully you have many friends who are buying music from Google.