Google unveils latest moonshot: balloon-powered Internet access

We’ve seen several reports of Google wanting to bring Internet access to emerging-countries, and the company has now announced a project that will greatly help it accomplish that goal. In a post on the official Google blog,  Mike Cassidy announced the next “moonshot” from Google’s mysterious X lab, balloon-powered Internet access.

Google believes that it might be possible to build a ring of balloons that travel around the globe on the stratospheric winds and provide Internet service to the earth below. The company does warn us that this idea is still in the very early days of development, but says that it has built a system that uses balloons carried by winds at altitudes as high as planes and beams Internet at speeds as fast or faster than current 3G networks.  Read more

Google being investigated by EU over allegations made by Nokia, Microsoft

Google

According to a new report out of the Financial Times, Google is being investigated by European officials due to allegations that it has anti-competitive deals set up with select smartphone manufacturers. This isn’t the first time Google has run into trouble with the EU, as the company has been investigated for antitrust issues in the past.

Microsoft and Nokia made these allegations and claim that Google is forcing Android manufacturers to delay the launch of devices running their two operating systems. The European Union is also looking into claims that Google requires manufacturers to preload its services on their devices. Read more

No more roaming fees in Europe as of July 2014

M003-0195

Good news for anyone living in any of the 27 EU countries: as of next July, you’ll pay the same rate for calls and data when travelling within Europe as you do at home, reports The Telegraph.

Consumers will next year be able to use their mobile phones across the European Union for the same price as at home, it is planned, after officials voted to fast-track major reforms of telecoms regulation.

Roaming fees for voice calls, texts and internet access will effectively be completely scrapped under the proposals, which are part of a broader effort to create a single European telecoms market …  Read more

Google Glass teardown: “It’s surprisingly simple”

glass-teardown-exploded-top-thumb

What’s the first thing you do when you’ve just picked up your $1500 Google Glass headset? If you’re Scott Torborg and Star Simpsons, it’s apparently to reach for the spudges and screwdrivers …

We eagerly brought Glass back to the lab to begin the dissection. Speculation reigned: what if the entire body of Glass is potted with epoxy requiring strong solvents to access? Which part is the battery in? How hackable is this thing? Where are the sensors? Any extra hardware features yet to be unlocked by future software updates? But first, where to even begin opening it?

With no idea of what lay ahead, we started by removing the titanium frame from the pod that holds all the good stuff …  Read more

Google partners with HP to push Apps to small-medium businesses in blow to Microsoft

Google-Apps-for-Business1

Google has partnered with HP, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, to promote Google Apps to small businesses, reports AllThingsD.

HP has become a Google Apps reseller and will package management tools with its PCs, printers and other IT gear.

Although more than five million businesses use Google Docs, Microsoft Office remains the default solution, with many either unaware of Google Apps or unsure of how to use them. But if you buy a PC and it comes with Google Apps pre-installed, you’re much more likely to give it a try …  Read more

Google asks U.S. government to disclose national security FISA requests

PRISM-slide

Following Google’s denial of being involved in the PRISM surveillance claims in which the National Security Agency was accused of tapping into servers of 9 tech companies for details of user activity, Google today published a letter it just sent to the U.S. government requesting the release of more national security request data.

Google this morning sent a letter to the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation asking that it be allowed to publish “aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.”

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

Google continued by noting that the numbers “would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.”

The full letter is below: Read more

Google announces Waze acquisition, plans to enhance Google Maps w/ traffic update features & integrate Google Search in Waze

waze_logo2The rumors were true: Google just officially confirmed in a blog post that it has acquired mapping company Waze with some big plans to integrate the Israel-based company’s traffic related features into Google Maps.

WazeGoogle confirmed in the announcement that it has acquired the company but didn’t provide any financial details related to the deal. Waze for now will continue to operate in Israel separate from the Google Maps team, but Google also has plans to integrate its search technology into Waze products.

We’ll also work closely with the vibrant Waze community, who are the DNA of this app, to ensure they have what’s needed to grow and prosper.

As for what specific traffic features you might see come to Google Maps, Google’s Vice President of Geo Brian McClendon notes “The Waze community and its dedicated team have created a great source of timely road corrections and updates.”

Google had been rumored several times in recent weeks to be acquiring the company with the latest reports claiming the deal would be somewhere in the $1B range. Read more

Reductive, geometric, front-facing: a look at Google’s design principles

design

Roger Oddone, a senior graphical designer at Google, has provided a rare look behind the scenes at Google’s design principles, putting the company’s Visual Assets Guidelines online (via Gizmodo). The aim of the documents is to create a …

solid, yet flexible, set of guidelines that have been helping Google’s designers and vendors to produce high-quality work that helps strengthen Google’s identity …  Read more

PRISM update: how both the claims and the denials may be true

The NSA's $2b data centre in Bluffdale, Utah (source: businessweek.com)

The NSA’s $2b data centre in Bluffdale, Utah (source: businessweek.com)

Security researchers examining the PRISM denials made by the companies alleged to be providing data to the NSA say that the language used is suspiciously similar. The emphasis is ours:

Google: First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers.

Apple: “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”

Facebook: Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers.

The fact that the exact same phrase has been used seems unlikely to be a coincidence. One security researcher I spoke to said the wording only eliminated the NSA pulling data from the servers; it did not mean the companies were not pushing the data to the NSA. If the NSA obtained a secret court order requiring the companies to hand over the data, then of course statements that they only provide data when required to do so by law would also be true …  Read more