IF YOU ADD them all up, Google actually makes a lot of gadgets. It sells Nexus phonesChromebook PixelsPixel C tabletsNest smart-home products, cardboard VR viewers, Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, pretty Wi-Fi routers, even weird custom phone cases. But you’d never think of Google as a hardware company, because there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Some things are made for developers, others to show off how great a form factor or operating system could be. Some become really expensive doorstops. I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff, too—Google’s made so many small-time moves in the gadget market that it’s hard to track them all.

What’s Google really about? Attention. Yours, ours, everyone’s.

This one feels different, though. If the rumors are true (which they almost always are), Google’s about to drop the biggest bundle of hardware in the company’s history. At an event on October 4 in San Francisco, we expect to see two new phones, which will come with Pixel branding and potentially the biggest mainstream push for a Google phone ever. Google will also announce a release date for Home, its Amazon Echo-style chatbox, and for the Daydream virtual reality platform. Sundar and Friends will also reportedly have a new router to show off, and a new Chromecast. Maybe some Chromebooks, too, and maybe even the long-awaited operating system that combines the best of Chrome OS with the best of Android. And who knows? Google could release a new self-driving car just for fun! Either way, it’s going to be a busy day.

None of this means Google’s trying to be the world’s greatest gadget manufacturer. “I don’t think they are about boxes,” says Tuong Nguyen, principal analyst at research firm Gartner. “They’re not out there to sell boxes of anything to anyone.” Hardware’s a crazy business to get in anyway, Nguyen says, with tiny margins and massive entrenched players. Plus, it’s not what Google’s really about.

What’s Google really about? Attention. Yours, ours, everyone’s. Google’s in the business of getting people to use its products, so that it can collect data with which to both improve its products and make several more bargeloads of advertising money. That’s why Google makes so many good apps for the iPhone, ostensibly its biggest competitor. Google’s product isn’t the phone; it’s what you do with the phone.

The Future’s Calling 

There’s a shift happening, though, that threatens to undermine that approach. Services are becoming invisible, and platforms are becoming exclusive. Take the iPhone, for instance: Apple has made iOS so robust and integrated that the iPhone is far more useful if you only use Apple products. Using Siri to do research, play songs, and get directions is a seamless and fast way to use your phone—one that cuts Google out entirely. Sure, you can download the Google app, but launching and using it is much more complex pathway than just holding the home button and asking a question. The Amazon Echo is the same way. Do you know what search engine Alexa uses to figure out who the 31st president was? Do you care, as long as the answer is correct?

Google Home

To be fair, Google’s in a strong position because Android is so wildly popular. But as mobile and voice shift search from pages of blue links to just answering your question, and as more devices start to connect to the Internet, we’re going to start using the web in countless new places. Google has to make sure it’s in all those places.



More than anything, the Google Assistant is the driving force behind Google’s hardware moves. “The assistant is really realized when it’s on many surfaces at once,” Nick Fox, Google’s head of communication products, told me earlier this month. “It’s almost this connective tissue on top of a lot of services. Instead of needing to navigate to those, and know what you want, you just say what you want.” Your assistant’s only useful if it’s everywhere, and users don’t want to download new apps or tweak settings. They just turn the thing on and expect it to work. Google needs to make sure the voice you hear when you turn on your new chatbox isn’t Alexa’s, or Siri’s, but Google’s.

So no, Google’s probably not trying to sell more phones than Apple. What it’s trying to do instead is turn Google into the connective tissue for all your devices, phone or otherwise. “That paradigm,” Nguyen says, “these underlying interfaces, the conversational agents, that’s one way to tie these pieces together.” To do that, Google needs to push its hardware partners. It’s making these physical manifestations of its most forward-looking products in order to show developers, hardware partners, and users how these things could work for everyone. And to make sure that its platform keeps being everyone else’s platform.

Forget the business case for a second, though. If Google’s really committed to making, selling, and supporting hardware (which is still a big if, given Google’s flighty history), exciting things are about to happen. A real Google presence in the market could put an end to Android fragmentation. It could transform laptop design, because Google’s not concerned with enterprise customers but with disrupting the industry. It could make virtual reality that works for everyone, and tune the experience because it manufactures the phone, the viewer, and the OS. Google can set the tone for the rest of the market, not by making neat prototypes for Huawei to look at but by becoming a real competitor. It’s like Apple always says: things are better when you make both hardware and the software.

Earlier this month, Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s head of Android, Chrome OS, and Play, tweeted that “I have a feeling 8 years from now we’ll be talking about Oct 4, 2016.” If Tuesday’s the day Google goes from all-knowing search engine to all-powerful personal assistant, and permanently raises the bar for the actual gadget makers, Lockheimer might just be right about that.

Source : wired

Published in Internet Technology

After weeks of urging consumers to return and exchange their Galaxy Note7 phones, Samsung, in partnership with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has officially recalled the phones over defective batteries that could potentially explode.


Up to 1 million Note7 phones sold are affected in the U.S., but only about 130,000 device owners have returned their devices.

Samsung's now diligently urging ordering all Note7 owners who purchased a phone prior to Sept. 15 to return the phone and get a replacement. So if you're one of those owners and haven't done so, please do. You really, really don't want your Note7 to accidentally incinerate your car, burn you or blow up on any planes or trains.

The recall has effectively declared affected Note7 phones extremely dangerous to own. 

One of the reasons why so many Note7 owners may not have returned their devices could be related to limited stock for replacements. There are many reports that replacements weren't available and some users may have been hesitant to get loaner S7 and S7 Edge devices until new shipments arrived.


The process for getting replacements was also confusing. Consumers trying to return their devices to carriers were either told they didn't have replacements and didn't know when there would be any, or told to contact Samsung, in which the Korean electronics giant would then tell consumers they'd need to contact their carriers.

That confusion has only frustrated Note7 owners more.

How to see if your Note7 is affected

Obviously if you purchased a Note7 prior to Sept. 15, you should return and exchange it. But perhaps you got one as a gift or you're reading this story at a much later date and want to know if you have a phone that could explode.

To find out, locate your IMEI or serial number (Apps > Settings > About Phone  or General Management > Status IMEI information or Serial number, or find it on the back of your phone) and then enter it into Samsung's database here.

Replacements coming by Sept. 21

Following the proper Note7 recall, Samsung now says it'll have replacements for the affected U.S. phones as soon as next week.

"To our Note7 owners, if you have not yet replaced your original Note7, please, please power it down and return it," Tim Baxter, Samsung Electronics America president and COO, said in anapology video. "New Note7 phones will be available for exchange no later than next Wednesday, Sept. 21. Visit Samsung.com for more information."

A source close to Samsung tells Mashable the company is preparing an ample supply to replace faulty phones.

"To those of you who love the Note, the most loyal members in our Samsung family, we appreciate your passion and patience," Baxter said. "We take seriously our responsibility to address your concerns about safety. And we will work every day to earn back your trust through a number of unprecedented actions and with the extraordinary support of our carrier partners, suppliers and United States Consumer Products Safety Commission."


U.S. Note7 owners have three options according to Samsung:

1. Exchange your current Galaxy Note7 device with a new Galaxy Note7 as approved by the CPSC available no later than Sept. 21, 2016; or

2. Exchange your current Galaxy Note7 for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge and replacement of any Note7 specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices; or

3. Contact your point of purchase to obtain a refund.

Additionally, Samsung's also throwing in a "$25 gift card, in-store credit, in-store accessory credit or bill credit from select carrier retail outlets" for those who exchange their devices as a consolation bonus for any trust lost.

Samsung's also provided websites and contact information regarding how to exchange Note7 phones at U.S. carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, U.S. Cellular) and at Best Buy on its website as well.

What about stickers and software updates and new battery icons?

There are several reports that Samsung is labeling new Note7 with different batteries with an "S" sticker on the packaging, issuing software updates that limit the charging of affected Note7 phones to 60 percent and giving new phones green battery icons instead of white ones.

However, none of that will happen in the U.S. In a phone call, Justin Denison, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at Samsung Electronics America told Mashable that there are currently no plans for those specific initiatives — which are being taken by Samsung in other regions — planned for America.

At the current time, the company is focusing on its protocols with the CPSC and checking if devices have faulty batteries through IMEI and serial numbers. 

All new Note7 phones including replacements will be verified through authorized sellers as safe through its database; Note7 phones with IMEIs or serial numbers that are flagged in the database as faulty will not be sellable.

Additionally, the company is using a multitude of channels and social media platforms, including sending customers emails and notifications via the Samsung Plus app, to blast the recall information. In addition, it has produced print and radio spots to get users to take the recall seriously.

Samsung is planning further initiatives, but declined to elaborate beyond the fact that they'll be forthcoming.

Denison reiterated to Mashable that the company is putting safety as its top priority.

Source : http://mashable.com/

Published in Internet Technology

The company behind two of the most highly rated smartphones (big and small), the leading smart thermostat, a super high-end laptop, a 2-in-1 tablet, a Wi-Fi camera, streaming audio and video players, a sexy router and a smart smoke detector ... is Google?


It's strange but true. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) is synonymous with search and Internet apps, but it has quietly built itself a very respectable gadget business. Google has come a long way since its first Nexus smartphone launched in 2010.


The Nest is a top-seller. The Chromecast is a big hit. The Nexus 6P is one of the best-reviewed smartphones ever. And Chromebooks are quickly becoming the standard education laptops for K-12 students.

Google appears unsatisfied, however.

Its portfolio of gizmos is expected to expand at the Google I/O developers conference next week. Google is rumored to be unveiling two brand new gadgets at I/O: A virtual reality headset and an Amazon Echo competitor.

Google's new virtual reality gizmo is expected to be a standalone gadget, running Android (no smartphone required).

VR isn't new to Google, though its current offering is kind of a joke. "Cardboard" is its $15 VR viewer that is literally made out of cardboard, Velcro and plastic lenses. It doesn't do anything on its own: You have to stick your smartphone inside a cardboard flap.

Google's new Echo competitor is expected to be a tall Internet-connected speaker that can play music, read your emails out loud, tell you the weather and do all the tasks that virtual assistants do. Like Amazon's Echo, it will respond to voice commands ("OK Google," not "Alexa"), but it will have Google's giant search engine to pull information from.


Why the big gadget push?

Google thrives on data. Its mission, after all, is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

There's a tremendous amount of information that can be learned from Google's gadgets: how you use energy, connect to the Internet, and what media you stream. By better understanding its customers' behaviors, it can offer ads and services that are tailored to them.

Plus, VR and the Internet of Things are the buzzy, potentially groundbreaking ways we might interact with the Internet in the future. Google wants to ensure it isn't left out. If Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or any other competitor beats Google to the punch, Google could lose out on a massive amount of important information about their customers.

And if Google doesn't control the gadgets that you use, there's no guarantee you'll use its services. For example, Android promotes Gmail, YouTube, Google search and Google Maps at launch (something the company is currently being investigated for by the European Union).

By making gizmos and devices that its customers want to use, Google can continue to lock people into its services and searches, collecting their data and serving up more relevant ads.


Source:  http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/12/technology/google-gadget/index.html

Published in Internet Technology


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