Observations from Google I/O 2014: The Sundar Pichai Show

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There is both a lot happening at this year’s Google I/O and very little, depending where you look.  Obviously, if you are a developer who builds Android and even web apps, you are a kid in a candy store. If you are looking for new hardware, there isn’t much that wasn’t out there already.  Neither Google co-founder took the stage this year after successive years where Sergey Brin led the introduction of Google Glass (which is all but absent this year) and Larry Page led an epic Q&A last year.

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Future Nest products may not need new hardware, could be just apps, says Fadell

If you love the idea of smart home technology like Nest, but are concerned about the cost of replacing half the appliances and devices in your home, Nest CEO Tony Fadell has some good news. Speaking at the Re/Code conference, he said that while “you need new hardware to allow things to flourish,” there are many things that could be done with software alone.

 Just like your smartphone has many many apps on it, we think there [could be] many apps in your home but you don’t necessarily need new hardware …

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Google tells the SEC it could soon be serving ads on thermostats and other devices (Update: Google says no ad-based Nest)

 

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Those who expressed concern about Google’s acquisition of Nest may have have been right: the company has told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may choose to serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

The WSJ reports that Google made the statement in support of its contention that it shouldn’t have to break out ad revenue from mobile devices …  Read more

Nest team to become Google’s new money-no-object hardware designers

Google CEO Larry Page (centre) with Nest co-founders Matt Rogers amd Tony Fadell (photo: technologyreview.com)

Google CEO Larry Page (centre) with Nest co-founders Matt Rogers amd Tony Fadell (photo: technologyreview.com)

Tony Fadell and the rest of the Nest team will become Google’s “core hardware group,” working on a variety of hardware projects and given access to “as many resources as it needs,” according to an unnamed source cited by TechCrunch.

The new division will still work on hardware devices, but not necessarily thermostats or smoke detectors. In fact, Google would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company. Will it be a phone or a tablet? It’s unclear for now [...]

When it comes to budget, Google is willing to let the Nest team use as many resources as it needs. In other words, the company is getting serious about consumer hardware, and Motorola was just a false start …  Read more

Any data gathered by Google-owned Nest devices will be “transparent and opt-in,” says Tony Fadell

Photo: websummit.net

Photo: websummit.net

Nest CEO Tony Fadell has responded to data privacy concerns expressed after the company was acquired by Google, stating that there have not yet been any changes to the data collected by the smart thermostat and smoke detector, and that any future changes would be both transparent and opt-in.

At this point, there are no changes. The data that we collect is all about our products and improving them.

If there were ever any changes whatsoever, we would be sure to be transparent about it, number one, and number two for you to opt-in to it …  Read more

Court docs reveal email exchange between Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs over poaching employees

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Earlier this month, a U.S. District Judge in California ordered Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and others to give depositions in an ongoing private lawsuit. Employees brought on the private lawsuit alleging  “no-poach” agreements the companies entered would drive down wages. Today, new details have emerged after a request to keep court documents secrets was denied by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

While emails exchanged between Steve Jobs and former Palm CEO Ed Colligan have been the focus on the documents, The Verge also pointed us to emails exchange between Jobs and Google execs. Below we have an email form Jobs to Schmidt asking to put a stop to Google recruiting employees from its iPod team, as well as one where Schmidt discussed not wanting to create a paper trail: Read more

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer had some lovely words for former Google CEO Eric Schmidt

The August issue of Vanity Fair fully dissects “How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo,” but it also gives an interesting glimpse at how the once-reigning tech company foolishly underestimated Google.

The actual article is not online, but BetaBeat obtained a physical copy and found a little nugget buried inside that describes chief executive Steve Ballmer going on a rampage in 2004. After allegedly throwing a chair, the CEO had this to scream say about an engineer who left Microsoft for Google:

“Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy!” Ballmer yelled, according to the court document. “I’m going to fucking bury that guy! I have done it before and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.”

Ballmer is notorious for his emotional antics and miscalculated quotes about the competition. The video atop is a perfect demonstration of Ballmer going, well, crazy. Meanwhile, the video below shows the executive laughing about the iPhone in 2007, while dismissing its ability to handle business-oriented tasks due to its lack of a tangible keyboard.

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iHome unveils Android accessory line for smartphones and tablets

Hold on to your hats, iHome just turned Android.

The long-time iOS accessory manufacturer unveiled a new line of pocketbook-friendly Android trimmings today.

“The size of the worldwide Android audience and lack of current speaker options gives us a significant opportunity to introduce our products to a new group of consumers,” announced iHome’s Director of Marketing Evan Stein in a press release. “Our new SmartDesign products maintain the high quality and innovation that is synonymous with iHome.”

First up is the iC50 for Android smartphones. It is a $59.99 alarm/radio clock with a microUSB charging cable, stereo audio cable, and 3.5 mm plug:

Wake and sleep to radio (you can also wake to tone). Reson8® speaker chambers and EXB bass enhancement provide great sound that’s perfect for your music, games or apps. Works with iHome Sleep app (free download) to wake and sleep to your favorite music and advanced custom alarms. SmartSlide™ dock with custom micro USB cable for smartphone charging regardless of its charging port location/orientation. Also enjoy FM radio with digital tuning. A microUSB charging cable and stereo audio cable with 3.5 mm plug are included.

An image gallery is below.

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Hands-on with Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 – from an iOS devotee

I am an Apple devotee, through and through, so much so that I have not even bothered to look elsewhere to satisfy my tech-junkie needs—and yes, that means I have never played with an Android device in my entire life.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6. This Gingerbread-powered media player landed in my lap earlier this week and taunted something more. Unfortunately, due to my inexperience with Android devices, I am left to compare this offering to the next best thing in my mind: the fourth-generation iPod Touch. This should not be a problem, however, as both devices compete in the same product category.

Galaxy Players 4.0 and 5.0 released in 2011 for $229 and $269, respectively, and this week the South Korean-based firm added to the PMP lineup with its Galaxy Player 3.6 for about $100 less at $150. The price is definitely more attractive, but are users just getting what they paid for? Read more to find out.

A gallery of images is below.

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Samsung Galaxy Player 5 review: the first real Android iPod touch

The Samsung Galaxy 5 player is probably exactly what you think it is: a big-ass Galaxy S phone without the “phone part”.  That is, it doesn’t have a 3G radio for voice and data, instead relying on Wifi to connect to the Internet.  If you are like me, however, you spend 90+ percent of your day around Wifi and during that 90% of the time, it is as good as any 3G or 4G mobile device – the reviewers agree.

As you’d expect, the screen is huge, especially compared to typical phones.  I have a white one and it looks like a comically large white iPhone 3G from afar.  The screen also has the standard Samsung 480×800 pixel count, though with the larger screen the fonts aren’t as crisp as a 4-incher.  Having gotten my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus, I can tell you that this screen isn’t even close to as crisp.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful, especially for playing Netflix or Youtube content.

This is generally the first Android device that goes up against Apple’s iPod Touch franchise and I believe it does have some compelling differentiators, besides the much larger, but not “Retina crisp” display.  I’ll break these down below:

  1. The 3MP backside Camera is actually good for taking pictures. If you’ve tried to take a picture with the iPod Touch’s backside camera, you know it is barely passable.  Samsung’s on the other hand takes decent pictures – think iPhone 3GS-type quality.  It also has a Flash for those times you are in the dark and want to cast a flashlight type shadow on your subject.
  2. Removable Storage: The Galaxy Player has a Micro SD card slot that instantly bumps your Player capacity up to 40GB with $40 worth of card. With an iPod, that costs $100.  It’s also nice for quickly moving storage around.
  3. Sound: The Galaxy Player stereo speakers blows away the iPod touch mono.  To make matters better/worse, Samsung includes a very nice pair of in-ear headphones with the Player, while Apple’s White earbuds are…what they are.
  4. FM Radio: The Galaxy Player has an FM Radio which is nice when you run out of Wifi.  FM Radio is also helpful if there is an emergency but it only annoyingly works with headphones in.
  5. GPS: If you are navigating off of a 3G hotspot or some cached maps, you’ll get a way better location than with just Wifi triangulation.
  6. Google Voice plus Skype (or other VoIP app) turns this into a great phone.  Samsung left the mic and sfrom speaker in the right spots so it makes a fantastic, if not a little large, phone.
  7. Price. Street Price of $199 and $239 for the 4 inch screen and 5 inch screen Player varieties respectively compare well to Apple’s iPods.  When considering bumping up to larger capacities is just a MicroSD card away, it is that much more compelling an offer. Read more

Kindle Fire torndown by iFixit, reveals huge battery

The fine folks over at iFixit have done their honorary teardown of the Kindle Fire, which just became available today. The teardown revealed the device is much easier to open than Apple’s iPad and iPod. Other things to note are its huge battery and shiny metal plates on the back case that help provide protection for the internal components, as well as heat sinking and EMI shielding. Head on over to iFixit for all of the technical details.

Interested in our first thoughts on the $199 Fire? Check them out here. A few more teardown photos after the break:

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Jobs: No desire to make Android users happy with an iTunes client and other Google quotes

As you probably know, they Steve Jobs book is now in public hands and there will be lots of coverage.  As is also known, Jobs wasn’t a huge fan of Android and Google in general, though he was known to council CEO Larry PAge and cofounder Sergey Brin on more than one occasion.  Here are some of Jobs’thoughts on building an iTunes client for Android like they did on Windows:

“We thought about whether we should do a music client for Android. We put iTunes on Windows in order to sell more iPods. But I don’t see an advantage of putting our own music app on Android, except to make Android users happy. And I don’t want to make Android users happy.”

He lumps Google in with the Axis of evil:

“IBM was essentially Microsoft at its worst. They were not a force for innovation; they were a force for evil. They were like ATT or Microsoft or Google is.”

And Jobs’ meeting with Eric Schmidt:

“We spent half the time talking about personal matters, then half the time on his perception that Google had stolen Apple’s user interface designs,” recalled Schmidt. When it came to the latter subject, Jobs did most of the talking. Google had ripped him off, he said in colorful language. “We’ve got you red-handed,” he told Schmidt. “I’m not interested in settling. I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.” They resolved nothing.

And then there was the thermonuclear War…

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” Jobs used an expletive to describe Android and Google Docs, Google’s Internet-based word processing program.

He did have constructive criticism for Larry Page however:

We talked a lot about focus. And choosing people. How to know who to trust, and how to build a team of lieutenants he can count on. I described the blocking and tackling he would have to do to keep the company from getting flabby or being larded with B players. The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great….

I suppose it is better to be hated by Jobs than dismissed (Microsoft).