Google releases Chrome Beta 24, says Chrome is 26 percent faster since last year

Google released the latest beta release of Chrome today, with the Chrome 24 beta for Windows, Mac, and Linux. On top of claiming this is the fattest release yet, Google shared Octane JavaScript benchmark scores that show the browser has become 26 percent faster since last year’s release of Chrome 15.

With today’s Chrome Beta channel release, Chrome continues to get faster, as you can see in this chart which shows Octane scores. Octane is a JavaScript benchmark we designed to measure performance of real-world applications on the modern web. Stability sometimes takes higher priority, but we’re still manic about improving Chrome’s speed

Google also highlighted some of the other areas it’s improving in Chrome including enhancements to Google Cloud Print server-side and work to minimize wait times: Read more

Google’s new JAM with Chrome web app turns friends into rock stars (Video)

Google now lets friends play live music with…the Chrome browser and computer accessories?

Yeah, watch the video above for the full rundown. It is such a cute ad. Maybe it’s the purring cat in the beginning (the Internet + cats = magic), or maybe it is because Google is getting crazy creative with product advertising— even if it’s only meant for YouTube.

Anyway, back to the point: Google launched an interactive web app today that allows friends to play music together remotely in the Chrome browser.

Check it out:

When entering the site, users can browse 19 different instruments, and then select an instrument for playing. They can even invite up to three additional friends, toggle instruments, switch between expertise modes, and mess around with autoplay functions.

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Google’s Cultural Institute celebrates ‘The Fall of the Iron Curtain’ with online collection of exhibitions (Video)

The Berlin Wall fell 23 years ago today, and Google’s Cultural Institute is celebrating the anniversary by releasing an online collection of related exhibitions.

The collection, appropriately titled “The Fall of the Iron Curtain”, features 13 exhibitions comprised of documents, video, and photos from many partners, including: the DDR Museum in Berlin, Polish History Museum, Romanian broadcaster TVR, and Getty Images

According to the official Google blog, notable contributions include a video commentary by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, insights by Cold War history specialist and professor Patrick Major, a personal account of East Berlin life by independent curator Peter Millar, and more.

Check it out: 

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YouTube to star Call of Duty: Black Ops II gameplay in real-time

YouTube is all about live streaming lately, and now the video-sharing platform has announced COD (ahem—slang for “Call of Duty”) players can soon stream their gameplay when Activation launches the latest title for its popular franchise next week.

“Call of Duty Elite takes the live streaming experience even further, letting viewers on Elite see the player card of the user that is streaming,” announced Activision in a press release. “With just a couple clicks, viewers can dig deeper to see such information as class loadouts, recent match data, as well as career stats across supported Call of Duty games on Elite.”

The partnership essentially allows gamers to watch exploits in real-time multiplayer Call of Duty: Black Ops II matches for free. The deal is coushiony for Google and Activision, too. The Internet Giant gets engaging content to bulk its website, while Activation lands premium promotion.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II launches worldwide on Nov. 13, presumably at the $60-something price mark, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC. The title will also release in North America on Nov. 18 for the new Wii U.

Pre-orders are available at Amazon: 

Get the press release below for more details.

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Angry Birds Star Wars launches, Pinterest tests secret boards, and Starbucks adds Square Wallet payments

A few notable apps either launched or announced headlining news today, so 9to5Google gathered the most noteworthy ones in a roundup below. Our sister website, 9to5Mac, publishes app roundups on a daily basis, and now we attempt to do the same here for the most important changes happening in the Google Play store. We will also continually update this list throughout the day, so keep checking back for more details.

1. Angry Birds Star Wars
The highly-anticipated (and much-teased) Angry Birds Star Wars is now available in Google Play (video atop). Developer Rovio has long been working with the recently Disney-acquired LucasArts to bulk its popular app lineup with a Star Wars-themed iteration of Angry Birds that brings new creative and play experiences to the franchise.

The latest Rovio title ditches the traditional exploding/flinging Angry Birds for a slew of new bird characters each wielding a unique weapon. The Han Solo bird, for instance, halts enemies with a three-shot space gun. The game also features iconic Star Wars locations, 80 immersive levels, “hours and hours” of gameplay, fresh mechanics, and new level-up capabilities for birds.

Check it out:

Angry Birds Star Wars also landed on the Mac, iOS, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Windows 8 platforms today.

More apps below.

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Google launching free mobile access to web services in developing countries

Reuters is profiling a new service that Google just launched this morning aimed at providing Internet access (and advertisements, of course) to millions across the developing world. Known as “Free Zone”, Google will initially launch the service with local carriers in the Philippines. Reuters explained the service would essentially provide free access to Google services, such as Gmail, search, and Google+, entirely for free. However, users attempting to pull in data outside those services will be prompted to buy data from the local carrier partner:

Users could access websites that show up in Google’s search results for free, but any website outside those results would prompt an invitation to subscribe to the mobile operator’s data plan… Google and Globe hope that by offering a free layer of services they will entice users of so-called feature phones to move beyond just making phone calls and sending SMS messages to sign up for Internet services.

Google Product Manager AbdelKarim Mardini had this to say about the program: Read more

Google’s John Hanke details Niantic Labs, new Field Trip app, and ubiquitous computing

Mercury News recently sat down with Google Vice President of Product Management John Hanke to discuss Google’s Niantic Labs, and the resulting interview gave an interesting sneak peak into how Google is actively exploring ubiquitous computing.

Google acquired Keyhole in 2004. As CEO of the mapping startup, Hanke joined the folks in Mountain View to help “explore the intersection of ‘geo’ and location and mobile, with an eye toward things like ubiquitous computing.”

Ubiquitous computing, as Hanke further noted,  has been around for 20 years: “the idea is that computing devices will disappear into the background and what you’re left with is the benefit of computing, which is information and activities.”

Hanke heads Google’s Niantic Labs—a project exploring experimental mobile-social-local applications. The team just released its first product, a free Android app called “Field Trip“, that essentially serves information based on surroundings to users. As a person roams their neighborhood, for instance, the app employs location technology and databases to retrieve data on local history, landmarks, and restaurants. Field Trip then pushes helpful suggestions for those places and things.

An excerpt from the interview is below. 

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Microsoft Office for Android and iOS shows its face, release in early 2013

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The Verge has what it says are previews of Microsoft Office for the two platforms that own 90 percent of the smartphone and tablet markets.

The Verge has learned through several sources close to Microsoft’s plans that the company will release Office versions for Android and iOS in early 2013.

Iosoffice_560

Office Mobile will debut in the form of free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move. Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account. On first launch, a Microsoft account will provide access to the basic viewing functionality in the apps. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents will all be supported, and edit functionality can be enabled with an Office 365 subscription.

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Google leaks ‘Google Wallet card’ on Eligible Devices page

9to5Google previously detailed a leaked version of Google Wallet that plans to soon introduce a physical Google Wallet card, but a new leak today adds another layer of credibility to the piling speculation.

As noted by TechCrunch, Google let the cat out of the bag again today on its “Eligible Devices” page under the Help section of the Google Wallet website. The page listed all of the Android devices “eligible to download the Google Wallet app for use with the Google Wallet card.”

Last week’s leaked screenshots of the Google Wallet app also called the physical cards “Google Wallet card.” With that said, Google’s Eligible Device page no longer mentions them. It seems Google has promptly corrected its mistake. Hmm.

Check out the updated webpage below. 

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New Chrome Stable release improves battery life and website permission control

Googler Ami Fischman, a self-dubbed “Watt Wrangler”, just announced a new battery-saving Chrome Stable release.

“We recently enabled GPU-accelerated video decoding for Chrome on Windows,” wrote Fischman on the official Google Chrome blog. “Dedicated graphics chips draw far less power than a computer’s CPU, so using GPU-accelerated video decoding while watching videos can increase battery life significantly.”

Fischman noted test results show batteries last 25 percent longer with GPU-accelerated video decoding switched on. So now, Chrome users on Windows can watch more YouTube videos, as Fischman noted, without worrying about dwindling battery life.

Chrome users can even access website permissions, such as geolocation, much more easily with the new release:

This saves you from having to dig through settings pages to find these permissions. Now, simply click on the page/lock icon next to a website’s address in the omnibox to see a list of permissions and tweak them as you wish.

This latest release also includes an option to send a “do not track” request to websites and web services. The effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services respond, so Google is working with others on a common way to respond to these requests in the future.

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