Google tests Hotel Finder comparison ads above search results

In July Google launched an experimental Hotel Finder tool, which allows users to search specifically for the most relevant hotel related results. The service allows users to find places to stay in select areas, get price comparisons in one convenient location, and compile a shortlist of potential destinations. According to Search Engine Land, Google is now testing rather large “Comparison ads” at the top of hotel related search results that display links to the Hotel Finder tool. The move apparently has the hotel industry concerned…
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While the pilot is using an iPad, first class passengers will be toting Galaxy Tabs – Alec Baldwin notwithstanding

Hop on board an American Airlines flight this holiday season and your pilot will be wielding an iPad as a flight bag replacement but you – a first-class passenger –  will be treated with a Galaxy Tab 10.1 to keep you entertained. Keen on bringing balance back to the force, the airliner teamed up with South Korea-based Samsung to offer the Galaxy Tab 10.1 on their premium cabins onboard certain transcontinental flights. Here’s the sales line:

Sit back, relax, and let the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 take you to the movies or catch up on your favorite shows. The new device enables a unique viewing experience, featuring a bold and vibrant LCD, with brilliant colors and crisp definition.

Go past the fold for a list of flights serving some Galaxy Tab in-flight entertainment.
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Google Map Maker gets redesigned with Google’s new look

Following redesigns across the majority of Google services over the past couple of months, the company is rolling out a new version of Google Map Maker today that brings it up to date with the look and feel of the new Gmail, Docs, etc. The new app doesn’t appear to add any new functionality, but aims to make its main features easier to use for the average user.

You may have seen our ongoing efforts to improve the look, feel, and user experience across many other Google products to date. And with Google Map Maker available in the United States, Canada, and more than 180 other regions, it’s time for another makeover. Today, we’re revealing a new version of Google Map Maker to help users map the places they know best and make their hometowns sparkle on Google Maps.

All of the old features are still intact, but the new Map Maker will start with a quick demo showing you where all of the functions are located. You can check out the new Google Map Maker here.
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Samsung says court cases with Apple made Galaxy Tab a “household name”

A week after an Australian court ruled that Samsung indeed didn’t “slavishly copy” the iPad with their Galaxy Tab 10.1, the company told the Sydney Morning Herald that the court cases have helped make their device a “household name”.

While declining to comment on sales potentially missed during the ongoing proceedings, Samsung’s vp of telecommunications for Australia, Tyler McGee, had this to say in an interview this morning:

At the end of the day the media awareness certainly made the Galaxy Tab 10.1 a household name compared to probably what it would’ve been based on the investment that we would’ve put into it from a marketing perspective.

He also made a point of noting that the altered Australian version of the Galaxy Tab will essentially be the same apart from minor design changes saying,”If you look at the specs of the device they’re identical to the global device that’s available out there.” The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is expected to land in Australian stores this week, while the company says the 7.7-inch version and 8.9-inch version would be available sometime in Q1 2012.
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Google rolling out Android Market 3.4.4 update with significant performance improvements

Google has apparently just started rolling out a new update to the Android Market, bringing it up to version 3.4.4 and introducing a number of minor changes. Perhaps the most important change is an obvious increase in performance– most report overall faster performance, even on older devices. There also appears to be a new option to auto-add widgets to your homescreen, which replaces the “auto-add shortcuts” option. Although, the option still appears to only add icon shortcuts, so it’s unclear Google’s motive for the change going forward.

The update is being pushed out silently so there is some confusion over what exactly is included. Phandroid reports there is also trailers in the photo carousel for app listings. If it hasn’t reached your device yet, the APK is floating around here. Google also rolled out a few changes to the web version of the Market including review filters and an “email developer” option.
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Project Majel: Google’s Siri-killer to improve Android Voice Actions

Android and Me reports on a secret Google project aimed at adding a little conversational flare to Android Voice Actions. Dubbed Project Majel after Majel Barrett-Roddenberry – the voice of Star Trek‘s Federation Computer – it’s thought to be motivated by the success Apple’s seen with its clever marketing of the voice-controlled digital assistant Siri that debuted as an iPhone 4S exclusive on October 4.

According to the blog:

Majel is an evolution of Google’s Voice Actions that is currently available on most Android phones with the addition of natural language processing. Where Voice Actions required you to issue specific commands like ‘send text to…’ or ‘navigate to…’ Majel will allow you to perform actions in your natural language similar to how Siri functions.

Google is apparently working on Majel at clandestine Google X, the company’s top-secret lab headed by Sergey Brin. Majel should debut for Google search queries first. It’s unknown at this stage whether the technology incorporates some of the artificial intelligence traits exhibited in Apple’s Siri.
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Big Nerd Ranch answers your questions about Android development this Thursday

You might be familiar with Big Nerd Ranch from their iOS development programs detailed on 9to5Mac, but you might not know the guys and gals at the Nerd Ranch also run an Android Bootcamp. Well, your first introduction to the program could be this Thursday, December 15 when the instructors of the course will be holding an open Q&A with those interested in learning more about Android development.

To join the conversation, tune in on the Big Nerd Ranch Facebook wall or tweet questions with #BigDroidRanch. One participant will get a $750 credit to attend the Big Nerd Ranch in January when the next Android Bootcamp begins. You can start tweeting and posting your questions now and instructors will be live on Thursday at 3-5 p.m. ET to answer them. If you’re interested getting into Android development, swing by the their website to read more about the program.
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Google acquires Clever Sense, makers of local recommendations app ‘Alfred’

Last week startup Clever Sense launched their local recommendations app called Alfred on the Android Market. Previously only available as an iOS app, the service uses a proprietary engine to make recommendations for nightlife, food, and other local attractions without requiring the user to enter a search query. Today, Clever Sense has announced on their website that they have been acquired by Google and their team will be joining Google’s to further develop the recommendation tech built into Alfred.

As for what might possibly come of the acquisition in terms of Google services, Clever Sense CEO Babak Pahlavan makes a point of mentioning “Google helps local businesses connect with potential customers and its worldwide presence can bring the value of Clever Sense to a much larger audience.” Perhaps Google services like Offers and Places will benefit, but the company has yet to make an official statement.

Below are the important bits from Clever Sense’s statement:
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Samsung Galaxy Nexus GSM model available for $700 on NewEgg

Galaxy Nexus

Previously available on Amazon and a few other retailers, Samsung has made the Galaxy Nexus available on NewEgg for $700. Don’t get your hopes up however, this isn’t the Verizon Wireless version — rather the GSM version that works with a T-mobile or AT&T SIM card. NewEgg’s price cuts Amazon’s by more than $50.

We know the Galaxy Nexus will be launching in the US in the coming weeks exclusively on Verizon, and it’s not clear which carrier will get it (if ever) after Verizon. If you’re not ready to switch to Verizon and want the Galaxy Nexus — here’s your chance.

European readers, how are you liking ICS?

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Google updates Chrome with multiple user profiles

Multiple user profiles in Chrome have been in the works for months and we first spotted this feature in the Chrome Canary build before it found its way into the beta channel. Today, it gets official as the search Goliath announced in a blog post an update to the stable Chrome build, bringing the new Sign in to Chrome feature – previously known as Chrome Sync – which is available from the browser’s wrench menu. You will be asked to provide your Google Account credentials in order to authorize your copy of Chrome on whatever device you are running it.

“Signing in to Chrome lets you take your Chrome stuff with you, so you can always have your personal Chrome experience on all of your devices”, says Google. Changing something on one device – such as adding a bookmark – instantly changes it on all your other devices. You can also create multiple user profiles in Chrome on your machine (say, one for dad, the other for you, another one for your sister) and switch between them so each user can have its own personalized environment separate of the other users.

A user profile holds your bookmarks, the sites you visited, saved forms and passwords, installed web apps and extensions and other items supported by Chrome’s syncing mechanism. To add a new user to Chrome, go to Options (Preferences on a Mac), click “Personal Stuff,” and click “Add new user. Bear in mind that anyone with access to your machine can switch between users because the feature is not password-protected. A more detailed description is available over at the Google Chrome blog and in this support document.

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Skype updates Android client with photo and video sharing and higher quality video calling on tablets

Skype today updated its Android client with the ability to share videos and images over 3G cellular networks or WiFi hotspots. According to a blog postannouncing Skype for Android version 2.6, the company also improved battery life while the owners of devices using Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chipset, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Motorola Xoom and Acer Iconia Tablet, will notice better video quality on a bigger canvas. Additionally, the app now supports video calling on new devices, including the HTC Amaze 4G, Motorola Droid 4 and Motorola Droid Razr. Skype 2.6 for Android is a free download from Android Market.

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Google extending free calling in Gmail through 2012

Google just announced that they’re extending free calling in Gmail through 2012 for both the US and Canada.The original plan for the Gmail tool was to have it run for free until the end of this year, but luckily for us Google has chosen to keep it free. Vincent Paquet posted on the Official Gmail Blog:

As the holiday season approaches, we’re happy to announce that we’ve extended free domestic calls within the US and Canada for 2012.

Gmail calling uses Google Voice technology to allow users to call any phone number in the US or Canada. It doesn’t attribute a specific phone number unless you tell it to use your Google Voice number.