No immediate plans to merge Chrome and Android, says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt

Speaking at Google’s Big Tent summit in India, Reuters reported executive chairman Eric Schmidt as saying that Chrome and Android will remain separate platforms. This news is in contrast to the widespread view that the two would merge.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt attends a function on catalysing tech Start-ups in India by NASSCOM, in New Delhi March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Speculation had been driven by the announcement last week that Android founder Andy Rubin was moving to a new role within the company (as yet unspecified), while Chrome head Sundar Pichai would take on responsibility for Android. Speaking to the Guardian‘s Alan Rusbridger, Schmidt said:

Chrome and Android operating systems will remain separate products, although there could be more commonality between them.

Google may perhaps follow Apple’s approach of keeping OS X and iOS platforms separate but sharing certain user-interface elements, such as OS X’s Launchpad adopting a very iOS-like icon grid.

Android adopted the Chrome browser universally last year, while the ChromeOS got touch in its most recent incarnation on the Chromebook Pixel. Read more

Google Play 4.0 update leaks, features cleaner, improved UI

DroidLife staff member has received an update to the Play Store on a Nexus 4. The current Play Store is at version 3.10.14, but the new update is bumping that up to 4.0. While it’s obvious from the video posted by DroidLife that the update isn’t finalized, meaning that not everything about the new store is available to the public, the most notable change is a cleaner, smoother UI. In fact, when you first open the new Play Store, you’ll see a white blank screen, indicating that the ‘Featured’ section of the store hasn’t been pushed out to the public yet.

At first glance, you’ll notice text on list view and icons are bigger in the store than they were previously. When you select an app, the general layout remains the same—with the exception of more italicized font and repositioned buttons. DroidLife also reported a more ‘Halo’-themed tone to the store.

No word on whom else has received the update or when the widespread rollout will begin, but expect to see the update on your phone soon.

Google releases note-taking and organization service Google Keep for Android 4.0 and above (Video)

Google just released note-taking and organization app Google Keep on the Play Store.

Google Keep is available starting Wednesday for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and above, but Keep users can also access, edit, and create their notes on the Web via Google Drive.

The official Google blog has the story:

Every day we all see, hear or think of things we need to remember. Usually we grab a pad of sticky-notes, scribble a reminder and put it on the desk, the fridge or the relevant page of a magazine. Unfortunately, if you’re like me you probably often discover that the desk, fridge or magazine wasn’t such a clever place to leave the note after all…it’s rarely where you need it when you need it. To solve this problem we’ve created Google Keep. With Keep you can quickly jot ideas down when you think of them and even include checklists and photos to keep track of what’s important to you. Your notes are safely stored in Google Drive and synced to all your devices so you can always have them at hand.

Google Keep clearly includes some Evernote-esque functionality, as 9to5Google reported previously, but it notably also auto-transcribes voice memos that are easy to search and find. What’s more: If users finish with a note, they can apply Gmail-like actions such as archive or delete.

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Google Trends adds YouTube search and 5 years of video data

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Google Trends announced on Wednesday that it added YouTube search and video data from 2008 to present.

Google Trends allows users to search any term they’d like and browse search volume statistics, but now users can go to the left panel on Trends, choose “limit to”, and then select YouTube for a closer look at video trends.

Google gave example search query interests on the YouTube Trends blog, such as whether the “Harlem Shake” meme is over, and showcased how Trends provides a more detailed look at videos, terms, and topics overtime.

By the way, Harlem Shake is still going strong.

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2013 to be the year of the $99 7-inch tablet? (Update: not for Amazon)

TechCrunch has reported on rumors of a $99 7-inch Kindle Fire HD in the works, following earlier speculation about both Google and Acer tablets at the same price-point.

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Of course, there are no shortages of cheap tablets, some refurbs even going as low as $50. What all the devices at that kind of price-point have in common, however, is that they are all utterly appalling. Most have less-responsive resistive rather than capacitive touchscreens, run ancient versions of Android and don’t have access to the Play Store. The challenge is to create something usable in the double-digit price range, and that means enough processing power to handle HD video or at least at 720p.

If TechCrunch‘s sources are right, and they do seem remarkably specific, the new Amazon tablet supposedly shipping this year could be that device:

According to what we’ve heard, the $99 Kindle Fire HD will also still sport a TI processor like the rest of the lineup, and will have a 1280×600 resolution, like today’s Kindle Fire HD 7″ does.

Update: Amazon has told BusinessInsider that it is not readying a $99 Kindle tablet: “It’s not happening–we are already at the lowest price points possible for that hardware.”

IDC Research Director Tom Mainelli said the rumour is credible because Amazon doesn’t need to make its money on the hardware.

The infrastructure is definitely in place for Amazon to go even lower. If they can sell the product at roughly what it costs to build, that fits their long-term vision to make money selling you content on that device. It’s entirely possible – physically possible – to create a device that costs $99, particularly at the scale that Amazon would do it.

Amazon CEO Jess Bezos has previously confirmed that it sells hardware at cost to maximize sales opportunity for books.

There have been suggestions that the Asus ME172V may be Google’s $99 tablet, with a 1Ghz CPU and a 400MHz Mali GPU driving a 1,024-by-600 screen. Geek.com, in the meantime, said Acer is working on a similar 1.4GHz dual-core processor with the same screen resolution and 1GB of RAM.

While the credibility of some of the specific claims may be questioned (especially when some of them originate from the notoriously unreliable Digitimes), the likelihood that all of them amount to nothing seems slim. At some stage this year, possibly as soon as Google’s I/O developer’s conference in May, we’re going to see a usable 7-inch tablet break the $100 barrier and likely some happy kids at Christmas.

Will this threaten Apple’s market and margins? So far, the company has remained relatively immune to the influx of cheaper tablets, but as CEO Tim Cook has himself said, if Apple doesn’t cannibalize its own market, someone else will. A decent $99 tablet will pull down prices of better-specced ones, and no brand —not even one with the halo effect enjoyed by Apple— can remain immune to market forces forever.

Google officially adds ‘Animated’ and ‘Transparent’ image search filters for GIFs

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Google now offers image search filters for GIFs.

Starting sometime today, according to Google on Google+, Web surfers can go to “Search tools” below the search box and select “Animated” under the “Any type” drop-down box to view GIF files in the result pane.

Reports surfaced Tuesday morning that indicated Google could soon launch filters to refine results for transparent and animated images, and now Google has confirmed those rumors. It also implemented, as previously speculated,  a “Transparent” option under the “Any color” drop-down box.

Also—Google served up a little GIF trivia on Google+:

Even if you’re a fan of animated gifs—say you were the first to email your friends the slow loris very slowly eating a rice ball (goo.gl/KDDX1)—you may not know that the origins of animation go as far back as 1879 and Eadweard Muybridge’s “zoopraxiscope” (see our doodle homage to Muybridge:goo.gl/PGQW3). Gifs have been around since 1987 and have become the de facto standard for short animations on the web, from pony glitter text (goo.gl/iZoEZ) to grumpy cat memes (goo.gl/bC9um).

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Google launches ‘The Peanut Gallery’ Chrome experiment to showcase Web Speech API (Video)

Google updated Chrome last month with a Web Speech API in over 30 languages that allows developers to integrate speech-recognition features into their Web apps, and now the company has launched a silent movie-era Chrome experiment, called “The Peanut Gallery”, that looks to showcase the month-old API.

The official Google blog has the story:

Last month, the Web Speech API brought voice recognition to Chrome users in more than 30 languages. We thought it would be fun to demonstrate this new technology by using an old one: silent film. The Peanut Gallery lets you add intertitles to old black-and-white movie clips just by talking out loud while you watch them. Create a film and share it with friends, so they can bring out their inner screenwriters too.

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Google Drive launches new API with realtime-editing functions (Video)

Google launched a new Google Drive API on Tuesday that allows developers take advantage of realtime-editing functions.

Google Drive is known for its collaborative features, and now third-party app developers can specifically use the service’s new API to collaborate and edit text, spreadsheets, and presentations alongside other web users who can see the changes implement live.

“This new API handles network communication, storage, presence, conflict resolution, and other collaborative details so you can focus on building great apps,” explained Google on the Google Developers blog.

Drive users can notably edit their own work now, while simultaneously viewing real-time comments and changes from other users, and no longer need to download and re-upload entire documents for others to use. The Drive API will also keep track of who is connected and provide events for when collaborators join, leave, or make changes.

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Google to allegedly rebrand and unify chat services under ‘Babble’

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Google allegedly plans to re-brand and unify its various chat services, like Google Talk, Hangout, Voice, Messenger, Chat for Drive, etc., under the new name “Babble”.

According to a Monday report by Geek.com, which cited “multiple sources reporting separately,” Google is developing a cross platform solution to compete with iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger. The solution is being buit “fresh from the ground up,” and it will come with an Android and Chrome OS app and sport the moniker “Babble”.

Geek.com has the story:

Babble continues Google’s trend towards organization by conversation. You can share photos in chat windows just like you would in G+ Messenger, start a Hangout with anyone in your contact list, and the conversations are threaded across all the existing services. Moving forward, the individual services will all be pushed onto the single platform, and you’ll be able to use the same chat window across all of Google’s products with the same features available everywhere. It’s not so much releasing a new product as it is pulling together all of the existing products under a single branding.

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Developers give in-depth look at Google Maps iOS SDK vs Apple’s MapKit

FastCompany today posted an in-depth look at the differences between Apple’s MapKit and Google’s recently launched Google Maps for iOS SDK from the perspective of developers. The lengthy piece gets insight from several iOS app developers with apps that rely on the SDKs and sheds some light on a few things that Apple is doing much better than Google despite a perception from users that Google Maps are superior:

“Google doesn’t currently charge for the Places API, but they do require a valid credit card for access–which gives you a quota of 100,000 daily requests. So you have to wonder if they plan to start charging sooner or later,” McKinlay explains. “That 100,000 limit perhaps sounds reasonable, but each user session can generate many requests–particularly when using the ‘autocomplete’ feature of Tube Tamer–and some types of requests count for 10 times the quota each, so it can get used up pretty quickly.”

While noting that Google wins out with location lookup services, 3D buildings, directions, geocoding, and better hybrid satellite imagery, the developers were also quick to point out downsides of the Google Maps SDK such as quotas for the Places API, an increased app size, and limitations with markers, gradient polylines, and overlays.

Developer of transportation app Tube Tamer, Bryce McKinlay, discussed some of the benefits of using Apple’s MapKit: Read more

Google’s Nexus 5 rumored to boast Nikon camera tech and branding

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Google’s much-discussed Nexus 5 might boast Nikon technology, according to a new rumor.

Phonearena reported on a tip Monday that claimed the handset’s camera module would feature a “triple camera sensor thing” and Nikon branding. The anonymous tipster also said the camera would be the Nexus 5’s main selling point.

It is worth mentioning that Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra hinted at the camera quality of upcoming Nexus devices on his Google+ profile last month. When asked by a commenter about whether a future Nexus could replace a DSLR, Gundotra responded: “We are committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras. Just you wait and see.”

Also remember that Google and Nikon joined last year to launch the Android-powered, point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix S800c. Google even acquired Nik software in 2012, which Nikon gave a minority equity investment to in 2005, as TechCrunch noted.

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HTC turns to the press to talk smack about Samsung and the Galaxy S IV

htc vs samsung

Even before the Galaxy S IV was announced, HTC was on Twitter readily talking smack about the impending Galaxy S IV announcement. HTC’s first jab at Samsung started with the retweet of Yves Le Jan’s now infamous “Toys R Us” tweet:

As soon as the actual phone was announced, the floodgates opened and HTC decided to pull an all-nighter by tweeting anything negative it could about the device.

But HTC didn’t just stop at Twitter to spread the hate. In an interview with BusinessInsider, HTC’s President Mike Woodward had some harsh words for Samsung. When asked about his thoughts on the Galaxy S IV, Woodward said, “It feels very iterative. It looks a lot like the Galaxy S III…We were pleased to see no innovation in the design itself.”

HTC seems to be very glad about the Galaxy S IV’s plastic design, as one of the main selling points of the new HTC One phone is its all aluminum chassis.

While HTC seems to be cooling off its Twitter account, expect to hear more rhetoric from HTC as the Galaxy S IV starts to become available to the public.

Oh, and don’t forget Apple. Read more