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Report: Samsung and Google Butt Heads Over Smartwatches

Mashable

Are Google and Samsung fighting over Tizen’s role in wearables? According to a new report, the answer is yes.

According to The Information, Google CEO Larry Page met with Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley. The purpose of the meeting? To discuss Samsung’s plans for wearables.

Evidently, the meeting wasn’t a success. The report reveals Page was unhappy to hear that Samsung still plans to focus most of its wearable efforts on its own Tizen operating system rather than giving more support to Android Wear.

Although Samsung has made a smartwatch that runs Android Wear — the Gear Live — the bulk of its smartwatch efforts are focused on Tizen.

Google and Samsung have a decidedly complicated relationship. Samsung is the most successful Android OEM by a large margin. As a result, Samsung wants to be able to differentiate and customize its experience. Sometimes, however, things go too far. In January, Samsung agreed totone down the extent to which it customizes Android’s user interface. Still, that hasn’t stopped Samsung from creating its own app store and doing its part to maintain the Galaxy branding.

With wearables, the situation becomes even more complex, because Samsung is essentially selling two competing devices. The Gear 2 smartwatch runs Samsung’s own software and works only with Galaxy smartphones. The Gear Live, on the other hand, has to follow Google’s rules and will work with any Android 4.3 or higher device — even if it’s made by someone other than Samsung.

The wearable market — especially the smartwatch part of it — is still new enough to allow Samsung to support both platforms. Assuming the smartwatch truly does go mainstream, however, Samsung may have to choose a platform and commit to it. For Google, the question then becomes, what does it need to do to keep its most important partner committed, without ceding control of its platform.

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From Google to Amazon: EU goes to war against power of US digital giants

The Guardian

Within the salons of the Elysée Palace, along the corridors of the European parliament and under the glass dome of the Reichstag, Old Europe is preparing for a new war. This is not a battle over religion or politics, over land or natural resources. The raw material that Paris, Brussels and Berlin are mobilising to defend is the digital environment of Europe’s inhabitants; their enemies are the Silicon Valley corporations that seek to dominate it.

Coal, gas and oil powered the industrial revolution, but in the digital era, data is replacing fossil fuels as the most valuable resource on Earth, and the ability to collect and interrogate it has created organisations with a power that can at times seem beyond the control of nation states. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google represent, in the words of Germany’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, “brutal information capitalism”, and Europe must act now to protect itself.

“Either we defend our freedom and change our policies, or we become digitally hypnotised subjects of a digital rulership,” Gabriel warned in apassionate call to action published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine. “It is the future of democracy in the digital age, and nothing less, that is at stake here, and with it, the freedom, emancipation, participation and self-determination of 500 million people in Europe.”

In France, economy minister Arnaud Montebourg believes Europe risks becoming a “digital colony of the global internet giants”, and ministers have called for Google to contribute to the cost of upgrading the country’s broadband infrastructure. Gabriel says Germany’s cartel office is currently examining whether Google should be regulated as a utility, like a telecoms supplier – the group has 91.2% market share of search in Germany.

He believes that, as a last resort, there may be a case for “unbundling” Google, separating its search arm from mobile, or YouTube, or services such as email.

As a first step, he is in favour of regulation that allows competitors to use the Google platform fairly. The pushback against Amazon has also begun: as of last year, the online retailer can no longer stop independent sellers on its German website from offering their own goods cheaper elsewhere, including on their own websites.

European regulators have also begun to take action. In May, the European court upheld a plea by a Spaniard, Mario Costeja González, who wanted pages hidden from any Google search for his name in the EU. Judges decided the past transgressions of private individuals have a right to be “forgotten”. The threats that ruling poses to freedom of the press are now being debated, but it was a watershed moment, representing Europe’s first major regulatory strike against the search and software colossus.

On 11 June, the European commission‘s competition regulator, Joaquín Almunia, wrote to colleagues to warn that his investigation into Google’s search rankings could be reopened, after new complainants had stepped forward. On the same day, he announced a potentially wide-ranging inquiry into tax avoidance, starting with a focus on three companies: Apple and its international headquarters in Ireland, and Starbucks and its head office in the Netherlands (the third company being carmaker Fiat). On Thursday, a leak from Brussels suggested Amazon, which operates through a European HQ in Luxembourg, was also being dragged into the net.

“In the current context of tight public budgets, it is particularly important that large multinationals pay their fair share of taxes,” Almunia said. His intervention was widely interpreted as a politically motivated act. It almost certainly was.

There are those who believe that Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister who has just been elected as the next president of the European commission – despite vocal opposition from David Cameron – is out to get Google.

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Microsoft, Apple, and Google battle for the mobile enterprise

CITEworld

The past three months have seen a whirlwind of announcements for enterprise mobility. MicrosoftApple, and Google all had their respective developer conferences. It’s never been clearer: All three are positioning themselves to battle for dominance of the mobile business market.

Although BlackBerry also squeezed in an announcement about its new partnership with Amazon that will bring the Amazon Appstore to BlackBerry 10 devices, the company is struggling for relevance as consumers continue to eschew the platform. While BlackBerry will continue to be a player in high-security markets, it’s unlikely to recapture a dominant position in the overall enterprise space now that end users have much choice and control over what devices they want to use at work.

What’s interesting is that Microsoft, Apple, and Google are all approaching the enterprise market in different ways. Each is playing to its strengths.

The incumbent

Apple has already managed to secure much of the enterprise mobility market. There are many factors that led to Apple’s dominance, but some key ones include Apple’s early introduction of enterprise security features in iOS, an ongoing expansion of those features, having a more mature platform on the market sooner than Android and Windows Phone, a closed ecosystem that resists malware, and the premium user experience that has been the hallmark of Apple for the last decade or more.

Apple has another big advantage: It’s always retained complete control of iOS as a platform. Apple has strict control over the hardware, OS, and app ecosystem that defines iOS. Microsoft and Google have both relied on third parties to create devices that run their platforms. Although both companies are, in their own ways, taking some steps to rein in the platform fragmentation that this has created, minimizing the impact of that fragmentation isn’t going to happen overnight.

Even if Google’s efforts with Android L succeed in tamping down security-related fragmentation, Apple may still have an edge here in terms of end user support. There have been just eight iPhone models ever made (likely to become ten this fall) and just seven iPads. That makes things much easier for helpdesk and other support professionals to troubleshoot than the wide swath of Android devices that BYOD users may bring into the office.

Windows tablets and phones may fare better than Google from a support perspective because many IT departments already support and troubleshoot Windows PCs and transferring those support skills onto mobile devices may be easier and more efficient.

Being the incumbent in the race, Apple also has the advantage of inertia — organizations that have managed to standardize around iOS are likely to see an advantage in staying the course. Part of that is because the institutional knowledge and solutions to secure and integrate iOS are already present, which means generally lower overhead in mandating or preferring iOS over other platforms.

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Is Google getting into the native-advertising game?

Digiday

Google may be on the verge of cracking the code to that elusive grail of native advertising: doing it at massive scale. The search giant is said to be running a small test with publishers of a widget that would include links to content and ads.

In so doing, Google could pose a considerable threat to widgets like Outbrain and Taboola that already live on hundreds of publishers’ sites under banners like “Promoted Stories” and “From the Web.”

Such content-recommendation engines have had their issues. They’ve been blasted for surfacing content that’s low quality or incongruent with the host site, and peddling misleading ads that can undermine readers’ trust. That has in turn driven the emergence of an alternate content exchanges that are ad-free and profess to only circulate premium content.

What’s more, publishers expose themselves to risks by putting such third-party plug-ins on their site, as Reuters learned last week when its Taboola widget was hacked.

But publishers continue to use them because they’re also an easy way for them to recycle their content with the goal of keeping people on their site longer. It’s easy money, too: Publishers get paid each time someone clicks on an external content or ad link in the widget.

For Google, the opportunity seems clear. Publishers need to make their websites work harder, especially as online CPMs decline and readers shift to the smaller mobile screen and increasingly come to websites through side doors, behavior that is associated with lower engagement. There’s a big land grab underway by ad tech companies that are trying to marry native advertising and scale.

But Google already has longstanding relationships with publishers through AdSense, and a content recommendation powered by Google’s extensive data and analytics would be a natural way for the search behemoth to expand its grip on publishers’ sites. (Google declined to comment for this story.)

“They have a huge amount of history,” said Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter. “They can slice and dice it a lot of ways.”

Not only that, Google is good at rooting out bad links and has its own content, on YouTube, that it could push out through a widget, speculated Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman. “Think about the retargeting options. A content-recommendation-slash-native-advertising offer would be low-hanging fruit for Google.”

A content exchange widget would fit squarely in Google’s efforts to get into other aspects of the digital business and expand its presence on publishers’ sites. It’s reportedly already developing a content management system for media companies. If Google can come up with a better way to surface content that solves the problems of existing link exchange plug-ins, it could have a win.

Still, Google’s success isn’t assured. It would have to offer publishers a better deal than they’re getting from other third parties. And, nobody wants to be too dependent on any one vendor. Many publishers already have multi-year agreements with Outbrain, for one, and might be reluctant to add another widget to their already-crowded sites.

“Publishers,” said Rubel, “don’t want all their eggs in one basket.”

The great tech lull of 2014

CITEworld

One of the things that really struck me about Google I/O this year was how much of it felt like a retread of old ideas.

Android TV? That sounds like the resurrection of Google TV, which wasannounced at the 2010 show. Android Wear and Nest? Recall the connected-everywhere vision of Android @Home, the big deal of the 2011 show. Android “L” is just the next version of Android — it’s got a lot of important new design elements and promised enterprise security features, but it’s an incremental release of an already immensely successful product. Google’s new attention to providing cloud infrastructure to third-party developers, while useful, is simply following down the same path Amazon pioneered with AWS a few years back.

I had a similar sense watching Apple’s developers’ conference earlier this month. Our writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry drew a lot of flak for his criticism of WWDCand how he thought it reflected on Tim Cook’s leadership as operations guy rather than visionary. I have a lot more admiration for Cook — his reorganization of Apple to be more open and less controlling, and able to concentrate on multiple huge complicated projects at once, are remarkable changes that bode well for the company’s future.

But I understand what Gobry was getting at. What’s the big vision? How does Apple see the future, and what products will it create or enable to help bring us into that future? This is the company whose last three hit products revolutionized the recorded music industry, created the smartphone industry, and threatened the consumer PC industry with irrelevance. (Not to mention, Apple was arguably the inventor, or at least the great popularizer, of the personal computer in the first place.) Instead we got a bunch of disparate ideas and some connective tissue that may or may not be used to construct products that we may or may not want.

Part of the “meh” comes from a misunderstanding of what these conferences actually are. Because Apple and Google have done so much to revolutionize technology for everybody, we sometimes forget that these are conferences for developers — the people who build the next generation of products that will wow and delight us. They’re not for the rest of us, really.

But still. There’s a sense right now that big technology companies and startups alike are casting around for the next big thing.

Everybody seems to agree that the next wave of computing will involve a bunch of previously dumb devices becoming smarter with new kinds of sensors and processing power provided largely by cloud services, and getting connected up in some fashion. This data will be collected and compiled and used to provide custom-tailored services, even to the point of anticipating your desires before you have them.

This is what’s behind Apple’s HomeKit and CarPlay, Google’s acquisitions of Nest and Dropcam its new connected car and TV initiatives, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s talk of “ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence,” and Internet of Things and big data efforts by enterprise giants from Cisco to SAP to Salesforce. Not to mention hundreds of startups.

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Google’s plan to fix email

CITEworld

We hold the truth that email sucks to be self-evident, but there’s no agreement on how to fix it.

But at this week’s Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Google announced that it’s taking a novel approach to improving email: Opening its immensely popular Gmail up to developers by way of a new, proprietary API in beta. It seems to hope this API will eventually replace the current IMAP e-mail standard and turn the email service into a platform.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), invented in 1986, has become far more popular in recent years as an alternative to POP — the POP standard doesn’t support flagging emails as read or unread across devices, which is pretty important now that you can check your email from your refrigerator just as easily as you can from your computer.

Just about every mail client ever invented, including Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird, supports IMAP as the accepted standard for reading and receiving emails. Gmail has supported IMAP basically for the duration of its existence, meaning that any of those mail clients could act as an interface for Gmail.

Even so, that wouldn’t necessarily be all bad. Google is touting this step as a way to make Gmail a new platform for developers, opening the door to all kinds of handy-dandy new tools that take advantage of the ability to access email from within other, more specailized apps.

“While IMAP is great at what it was designed for (connecting email clients to email servers in a standard way), it wasn’t really designed to do all of the cool things that you have been working on,” writes Google’s Eric DeFriez in a blog entry.

DeFriez goes on to write that Google’s developers get Android-esque app-level permissions when accessing Gmail through the new API: If you only need your app to send e-mail and not read it, you can limit permission requests. He also says that it’s much faster than current mail access protocols.

So yes, email has problems, and fixing them with current mail access protocols that date back to the eighties often seems like trying to ice-skate uphill. And Gmail is a robust, incredibly popular platform that offers a lot of leverage for trying to fix things. But giving Google even more control over tools and technologies that we use every day seems like it may be a hard sell.

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What Google Understands: Context Is King

Mashable

If Google I/O 2014 were a military campaign, it would have been called Operation: Android Everywhere. From wristwatches to TVs to cars, Google extended the reach of its mobile operating system far beyond the smartphone, deploying new Androids to conquer territory that will determine who controls our connected future.

Android WearAndroid AutoAndroid TV — each one puts Google software into devices that we use every day. Surprisingly there was no talk about Android Home, but no doubt that’s coming — just as soon as Google works out exactly its acquisition of Nest Labs will fit into that picture.

The presence of Android on these platforms wasn’t new in itself. After all, there have already been plenty of third-party cars, TV sets and wearables that run Android. But what Google brings to the picture is a greater vision than just having a device that’s “smart.”

As the owner of the platform, it is in the perfect place to deliver a unified experience — the same way Apple does.

What Google was really selling at I/O was context, or more precisely contextual awareness of devices. A watch that runs Android is good; a watch that’s aware of where your phone is and which apps are on it is better. When the two devices are aware of each other, new functionality is created.

The upshot for the consumer: a whole new level of convenience.

“The integration between the different platforms is more important than any of the platforms themselves,” says Kelly Merrell, director of Android development for Mercury, which builds the TED app. “The watch itself is interesting, but what the watch can do when connected to the phone — like the lock screen using the wearable to say, ‘This is the right person that’s holding the phone.’

“The phone by itself can’t do it. The watch by itself can’t do it. It’s only when the two exist, there’s now new functionality unveiled just because of that connectivity.”

Android where?

Android Wear is fundamentally different from the Android smartwatches that came before it. Other models typically require the user to download separate software for each individual app that works with the watch — a tedious process at best.

With Android Wear, app notifications simply start appearing on the watch the moment you link it with your phone. To borrow a phrase that’s often associated with Apple products: It just works.

“You can pretty much put Android on everything already, but the level of integration you’re going to get is pretty limited,”says Ken Kyger, a developer for Cloudspace. “How many smartwatches are out there? And they all run Android or some fork of Android, but none of them really give that full, immersive rich experience.”

Part of context is knowing what data to share and what not to. Credit where it’s due here: Google learned a lot about how to do this properly with Glass. Android Wear watches, for example, don’t show you every single Foursquare check-in Twitter @reply but instead they’re grouped, prompting you to go to the phone for the full experience.

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IDG World Tech Update- June 6, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU this week Google wants to be everywhere, the Supreme Court rules cell phones are private during an arrest and technology helps a quadriplegic regain use of his hands.

 

As iPhone thefts drop, Google and Microsoft plan kill switches on smartphones

IDG News Service

Responding to more than a year of pressure, Google and Microsoft will follow Apple in adding an anti-theft “kill switch” to their smartphone operating systems, U.S. law enforcement officials will announce later Thursday.

The commitment will be disclosed alongside new data that shows a dramatic drop in theft of Apple iPhones and iPads after the September 2013 introduction of iOS 7, which included a kill-switch function that allows stolen devices to be remotely locked and deleted so they become useless.

In New York, iPhone theft was down 19 percent in the first five months of this year, which is almost double the 10 percent drop in overall robberies seen in the city. Over the same period, thefts of Samsung devices — which did not include a kill switch until one was introduced on Verizon-only models in April — rose by over 40 percent.

In San Francisco, robberies of iPhones were 38 percent lower in the six months after the iOS 7 introduction versus the six months before, while in London thefts over the same period were down by 24 percent. In both cities, robberies of Samsung devices increased.

“These statistics validate what we always knew to be true, that a technological solution has the potential to end the victimization of wireless consumers everywhere,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told IDG News Service.

Gascon and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have been leading a push to get smartphone vendors and telecom carriers to include kill switches in their products as a way to curb phone theft.

The joint work had early success with Apple but other carriers and phone makers dragged their feet. However, resistance to the idea appears to be dropping as several bills that mandate kill switches make their way through state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

The bills demand a function that would enable a phone owner to remotely delete and disable a phone if stolen. The function could be disabled by consumers before a theft takes place if desired, but crucially new handsets would be supplied with it switched on by default.

Gascon and Schneiderman believe that if most phones had a kill switch, thefts would drop because the probability of a stolen phone remaining useful and thus having value would greatly diminish.

The two said the data being released on Thursday appears to “validate the kill switch as an effective part of a multi-layered approach to combatting smartphone crimes.” Although it’s worth remembering that crime is a complex subject and other factors could have contributed to the fall in Apple-related thefts or the rise in those of Samsung phones.

“We must ensure these solutions are deployed in a more effective manner that does not rely on consumers to seek them out an turn them on, but the fact that virtually the entire industry has responded to our call to actionA is anA indication that we are well on our way toA ending this public safety crisis,” Gascon said.

As Google+ nears third anniversary, where does it go from here?

CITEworld

With Google’s social network coming up on its third anniversary, industry analysts are wondering if the company is rethinking Google+ and where it goes from here.

Google+, which has about 300 million active monthly users as of last October, has been in the shadow of Facebook and its more than 1 billion users, taking some criticism for not catching up to its competitor.

Then in April, Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president and the head of Google+, announced he was leaving the company. Gundotra was the public face of Google+, not to mention its biggest cheerleader.

His departure raised questions about the future of Google+ and whether it would falter without its steadfast leader.

Google I/O, the company’s annual developers conference, will be held this week in San Francisco and there isn’t one session about Google+. The scheduleshows various sessions about Android, the cloud, Chrome and Google Play.

Google+, was launched on June 28, 2011, has been left out of the mix.

“I think, and I hope, they’re taking the time to rethink it,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “It was the wrong answer to the wrong question. The wrong question was, “What do we do about Facebook?” Google+ is potentially a great group collaboration tool, but it’s not a social networking tool. Google has to figure out what to do.”

A Google spokeswoman declined to say Google+ would be mentioned during the company’s opening keynote at Google I/O. She added however, that the company is not revealing any of the elements of the upcoming keynote.

That doesn’t mean Google is pulling back its support of Google+, said Liz Markman, the Google spokeswoman.

“Topics and sessions will touch on multiple products and give developers a more holistic overview,” Markman said in an email to Computerworld. “Google+ is of course an important component to that. And, across the board, we will have fewer sessions this year. This is part of an effort to give developers more time to interact.”

Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC, said there might be more going on than Google’s not squeezing in time to talk to developers about Google+ and how to integrate it with the company’s other services.

“Vic Gundotra has left and they’ve made it pretty clear that they’re going to take a different approach with it,” Strawn said. “I think they’re going to let Google+ fade into the background.”

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