Some big-ish news from Google today which today brings the Nexus 7 tablet to the UK while at the same time announcing a price cut on its, Nexus 4 handset.
The tablet comes in two flavours - a 16GB model will set you back £199, while the 32GB model is a still very competitive £239. There's no delivery charge either.
As for specs it sports a 7.02-inch 1920 x 1200 HD IPS display with 323ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass on the front. Inside its has a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of RAM, and it comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean pre-installed.
There is also a 5-megapixel camera is on the rear and a 1.2-megapixel camera on the front. NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are all present and correct and its has a abtey life of around nine hours.
As for the Nexus 4 smartphone it is now down to £159 for the 8GB model and £199 for the 16GB model.
The big news this morning is that Google Music, which was announced in the spring and has been working in the US for several months now, has become available in the UK and other European countries.
You can sign up now and get a month for free and then pay an intro rate of £7.99 per month. It will eventually cost £9.99.
But what is it and how does it stack up against the current king of online music Spotify?
In many ways the services have a lot in common, They both allow you to stream whole albums and the catalogue of tracks they boast is very similar. There's no Beatles or Led Zeppelin on either of them, but then you guessed that already. They both have deals with companies to deliver new albums though Spotify has the edge on indie and European music for now.
The music discovering offerings are also similar too with Google Music including offering up recommendations on what to listen to next based on your listening habits.
Listeners can also turn any song into a "radio station", with the service intelligently creating an endless playlist of songs based around the artist and track you've selected, with each song complementing your original choice.
Both services stream music at a maximum of 320kbps.
But there are some key differences
Price - Spotify has a lot more flexibility here. For starters it has a free ad supported version - Google starts at £7.99 a month. Spotify's PC only version is cheaper too at £5.99 per month. For the full versions both will come in at £9.99 a month (though Google has an introductory offer of £7.99) which will let you listen to and store songs on mobile. Google scores here as you can store up to 20,000 tracks, a lot more than the 3,333 offered by Spotify.
Platforms - Google can be played from a browser on a PC or Mac, and on an Android based smartphone. If you have an iPhone you can access the service via the browser. Spotify has a browser service for PCs, an app for PCs as well as apps for both iOS and Android devices.
Music integration - Google has an edge on Spotify in that the new service integrates with its cloud based storage system. So you can upload all your music to the cloud and it will be accessible on any PC using Google Music. This is very useful for people who like music in genres which aren't well represented on either of the streaming services (obscure 60s stuff, jazz, easy listening, exotica etc). It also means that it is easy to create playlists that contain both yours and Google Music which are then available anywhere. For some users this is a serious advantage over Spotify.
Overall - Which one you choose I think depends on a number of factors. If you are a casual music streamer then Spotify's free service will probably suffice for you. If you are an Apple diehard too Spotify has the edge. Where Google Music scores is the integration of your own music with the streaming catalogue. that is a small, but significant niche. It will be interesting to see if and when Spotify addresses this.
It has been hailed as a smart move by Google, but will you be investing in one? The Google Chromecast, which debuted yesterday is a dongle that plugs into your TV's HDMI socket and enables you to stream video content from a number of devices to your screen.
It is apparently compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets and Google showed it working with a Windows laptop yesterday too. And it is limited in the video it can stream focusing on staples like YouTube and Netflix. It pulls in the video from the web as opposed to your device and is also compatible with Google's in the cloud wireless streaming audio service Google Music.
It has already gone on sale in the US for the very competitive price of $35. There's no details of a UK launch, but if it is a hit in the US it shouldn't be too long before we see it over this side of the pond.
There are already a number of devices that perform a similar service from the excellent Roku through to Apple's TV offering. You can also watch services like Netflix and YouTube from a number of devices like games consoles.
A few days ago during Google I/O the company took the wraps off a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that also incorporated a Google Nexus experience. the key difference between it and the existing version of the S4 is that Google version would run stock Android Jelly Bean and that means it is much more customisable by the maker. So on the Google model, for example, you wouldn't have those Samsung apps and interface.
Well the bad news is that it doesn't appear to be heading to the UK, at least for now. Google has confirmed that the handset, which will be available in the U.S. on June 26, will only be US for the time being.
There is clearly a demand for Stock Android on both sides of the Atlantic, so it will be interesting to see if any other makers - coughs, HTC - offer it.
Well I didn't see that coming... In a move that has already ignited a huge debate on the web Google has announced that it will pull its RSS driven Google Reader service in July.
In an announcement it said
Google says it is shuttering Reader and deprecating or shutting down a number of other services as part of the company's "spring cleaning" initiative -- one that seeks to help the company focus on the features that need the most use.
So it appears that Google Reader just isn't as popular any more asit used to be.
So at this point you are probably either crying tears of sadness or asking the question what exactly is RSS?
Dealing with the latter first. RSS is a way in which blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video can be pulled from websites in a standardised form. RSS readers like Google Reader then enable people to skim through hundreds of articles from multiple sources at speed as they look for important and relevant things to read. It was all the rage a few years back.
As you can guess Google Reader has been a much loved tool of bloggers and journalists since its creation seven years ago.
So why is no one apparently using it anymore? I think there are two key reasons. Firstly Google Reader looks dreadful. It pulls stories into its system in a way that simply isn't attractive or engaging. You really need to have a compelling reason (like journalists have) to wade through it on a daily basis.
Perhaps more importantly it has been superseded by social media and especially Twitter which work in a less systematic but often more intelligent way than an RSS reader. So, you might not get to see every story, but if you follow the right people who are generous in what they are sharing you get to see the stories that really matter - often along with the tweeter's opinion on them. You can also access stories from the sites in real time via their Twitter feeds too.
It is interesting that the most successful RSS readers for the iPad at least - are services like Flipboard which focus on social media as much as RSS feeds and deliver articles in a compelling, and often beautiful way.
I do wonder though that Google might be doing a Wispa by announcing its intention to close the service.
In 2007 Cadbury's announced that it was pulling the Wispa bar, a move which provoked a huge social media campaign to keep it and which ultimately increased its sales.
The same thing happened with BBC Six Music, Under pressure to initiate cuts I think that BBC execs cynically earmarked the service for the chop knowing that its demographic of social media savvy largely middle class listeners would campaign vigorously to save it. The end result was that its profile shot up and it became too popular to close.
So maybe, just maybe, Google is pulling a similar stunt with Reader. There are already blog posts calling for it to be saved. I just wonder of the threat of closure might give it the shot in the arm it needs to survive.
After weeks of speculation and rumoured leaks, Google has revealed its next shiny, new Chromebook, the Chromebook Pixel, a high resolution notebook device running on the Chrome operating system.
Tech Digest reports, that with a 12.85" touchscreen, the Pixel is much bigger than Chromebook's from other Google partners and its 2560x1700, 239ppi display and anodized aluminium body makes it a great option who those who would otherwise look to purchase one of Apple's MacBooks. But in actual fact it's got 19 more pixels per inch than Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display.
The Pixel has a 3:2 ratio display and Google says this is due to its web-centric nature, which will accommodate vertical designs more than standard applications, meaning you won't have to scroll around and mess about to view everything.
As you'd expect, the new device isn't cheap, expect to pay $1,299/£1,049 for the Wi-Fi only version, while the LTE build will cost $1,449 in the States. So far, no 4G version is slated for release in the UK. Cost taks into account onboard storage capacities; 32GB for Wi-Fi only, while there's 64GB in the LTE model.
We've been hearing loads (and kinda seeing loads) about Google's latest Glass project over the past year or so, the wearable headset that looks like a prop straight out of a sci-fi movie, which lets you do all kinds of things just using your peepers and your voice.
Well today everyone's talking about Google's latest preview video, created to showcase all of Glass' awesome capabilities and we're ridiculously impressed and terrified in equal measures.
From the examples in the video (which we've embedded above), Google Glass will respond to your voice and allow you to do all kinds of things, like record video, take photos, call and message your contacts, surf the internet and maybe even offer translation services too, the first time we've heard about that feature in any of Google's promotional content.
It all looks really exciting, but we are concerned that it won't be too long before none of us are leaving the house without a visor thing strapped to our faces.
The video was released at the same time Google announced its pre-order programme, but don't get too excited, if you want to get your hands on Google Glass you'll have to qualify and then fork our $1,500 for a developer version.
After years of making resolutions then breaking them within hours we've been careful this year to come up with plans that are cheesy and pretty abstract, like "be more happy" and "chase those dreams" and it seems we're not the only ones. Google has created a map to coincide with the New Year that aims to plot resolutions from across the world and show off its data visualisation and translating skills in the process.
You can browse via country or even type of resolution, some are achievable and great for personal development, like "go to the gym more", some are really sweet, like "volunteer once a month" and others are just a bit creepy, like "find a woman".
In a bid to prove just how much better Google's mapping services are compared to Apple's, the company has decided to say "Pfft, maps of the land? We now own the sea bitchez. Yeah, THE ACTUAL OCEAN. SO THERE."
Google's popular street view service is no longer constrained to actual streets, but now delves down into the depths of the sea to bring us some incredible panoramic shots from six locations around the globe, including The Great Barrier Reef, the Apo Islands in the Philippines and Hawaii's Hanauma Bay.
Back in April Google revealed limited details about Project Glass, which is essentially a code word for a pair of super sci-fi goggles complete with built-in Augmented Reality tech, the ability to capture photos and video, a 3G connected display, voice commands and a whole load of other awesome features.
Although the glasses aren't available quite yet (rumours suggest there'll be a launch in early 2013), it seems Google wants the world to think of them less as a nerdy gadget and more of an aspirational fashion accessory, as they've made a rather unexpected appearance at New York Fashion Week.
According to Digital Trends, Google teamed up with fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg to kit out models in the geeky goggles and then transmit the footage from the runway directly to the web.
All of the content from the show will then be made into a short film called "DVF Through Glass" (oh how pretentious and oh so fashion), which will be released this Thursday on the DVF Google+ page and Google's YouTube channel too.
Although it may seem like an unlikely pairing it makes sense that Google is keen to show the world the goggles aren't just for Star Trek fans and uber geeks, but can be used by run-of-the-mill, beautiful supermodels and those with serious dollar to spend on Diane Von Furstenberg clothes too.
Ahh Google Maps, without that shiny little app we'd have been even later for meetings, died of caffeine withdrawal on multiple occasions and would never have stood a chance of finding that pretentious cocktail bar.
Well good news, the popular service ventured indoors at a number of key locations in the US and Japan last year, but now it's set to be rolled out here in the UK too.
Android users will soon be able to click on one of 40 venues (that are mainly in London, sorry), including airports, shopping centres and public spaces, and will be able to view a detailed floor plan to help them find their way around.
The latest iteration of the app, Google Maps 6.0+ , will also tell you whereabouts you are, which exit you're closest to and the floor that you're on. This may all sound like a hell of a lot of technology to find your way around what is essentially just a building, but in huge airports when you're worrying about a flight or conference centres, the added indoor capability could be really handy.
Google have taken the keynote of the Google I/O 2012 conference to reveal the Nexus 7 tablet. Built for Google by ASUS, it packs version 4.1 Jelly Bean of the Android operating system and is positioned to take on the Kindle Fire at a mere $199 in the US.
Thin and light at just 340grams, the Nexus 7 has a 7 inch 1280x800 HD display, powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset and 12 core GPU. A front facing camera for Google Hangouts is onboard, while Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity all make the cut. Battery life is good for 8 hours of HD video playback.
Google are heavily pushing the device's gaming and media capabilities, shipping the tablet with a pre-installed copy of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" as well as several e-books, and a $25 coupon for grabbing games from the Google Play app store.
Taking pre-orders now, the tablet is expected to ship in mid-July.
UK pricing sees the 8GB version of the tablet sell for just £159, while the 16GB hits £199.
Turn off your emails, tell your boss you feel ill and replace everything on your job list this afternoon with MESS AROUND WITH FAKE LEGO because Google has teamed up with LEGO Australia to bring us Build, a cool new Chrome game, which allows you to make beautiful things all over Oz with bright LEGO pieces.
You can make any kind of structure, choose different sizes and colours and most importantly don't have to tidy any of it away at the end. You'll see we've created a rather amazing cityscape in the image above.
Over the coming months you'll be able to save and share your creations and the LEGO team will judge your work.
Today Google has revealed that it's applied to offer a number of new top-level domain names, including the likes of .youtube, .docs and of course our personal favourite, .lol.
In an official blog post about the new top-level domains, Vint Cerf, the Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, said:
"By opening up more choices for Internet domain names, we hope people will find options for more diverse--and perhaps shorter--signposts in cyberspace."
He goes on to explain that the decision to introduce the new names can be split up into four categories, Google trademarks (like .google), domains relating to Google's core business (such as .docs), domains that will improve overall user experience (enter .youtube) and finally those that Google feels will have a lot of creative potential (welcome the lovely .lol).
According to an article from Ad Age, the online search giant has applied for more than 50 new domain names in recent weeks, each with a reported $185,000 fee. ICANN (or The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has reportedly received more than 1,900 of these applications already and other companies have applied for domains such as .cloud, .web and .music.
Online rumours are suggesting that iOS 6 will come with Apple's own built-in Maps application, so does that mean the slow death of Google Maps, an app that we've all come to love and hate in equal measures?
As iOS 6 is being developed over at Apple HQ, rumours have begun to surface that the latest version of the company's operating system will ditch Google Maps and instead come equipped with an in-house maps application, unsurprisingly called Maps.
The app is believed to be similar to Google Maps, but according to 9to5 Mac will provide users with, "a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience." Well there's no arguing with that then.
Apple has been busy purchasing a number of companies in preparation for the iOS maps app, such as Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9. The exciting thing about Apple's foray into maps is allegedly a fancy 3D mode, which 9to5 Mac believes will put C3 Technologies' latest innovations to good use, as the company describes itself as, "the leading provider of 3D mapping solutions, offering photo-realistic models of the world for search, navigation and geographic information systems."
If the rumours are true and Apple IS in fact busy developing Maps as we write this, then we can expect it to be launched at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference in June.
Google has introduced a new feature for its fancy maps called photo tours, which means you can wander round some of the world's most famous landmarks without moving an inch.
We all know that Google Maps is pretty incredible (apart from when we lose 3G reception and have NO CLUE where we are) and Street View, also known as "taking the yellow man in", is really handy, as it allows you to see what an area looks like up close. However, it often falls short if you're wanting to experience some of the world's biggest, fanciest landmarks, which is why Google will be rolling out its brand new set of photo tours over the next few days.
These fancy photo tours will guide you through areas using a series of 3D photos, and at the moment there are more than 15,000 available, walking you around sites of interest across the globe.
To get started with photo tours, you can search for a place and the left panel will tell you if you can take a photo tour of it. Or, you can click on a landmark's label to see if a tour is available.
The interesting thing about the photo tours is that Google's funny little vans haven't been collecting the photos together, but instead it's been sneakily using your photos from the likes of Picasa and Panoramio to make the tours complete.
Steve Seitz, a Software Engineer at Google, said:
"We start by finding clusters of overlapping photos around major landmarks.
"From the photos, our system derives the 3D shape of each landmark and computes the location and orientation of each photo. Google Maps then selects a path through the best images, and adds 3D transitions to seamlessly guide you from photo to photo as if you're literally flying around the landmark and viewing it from different perspectives."
But don't worry about your photos being used against your will, all of them will be attributed to their original contributor and Google will only use those that are set to public.
The photo tours will be an incredible opportunity for people from all over the world to see some of the most famous landmarks up close, just don't be tempted to sit in and click your way through 15,000 sites of interest instead of actually going to see any of them in real life.
This week online giant Google launched its latest product, Google Drive, but what can we all actually use it for? And most importantly who really owns the content we upload to it?
Google Drive was introduced this week, no it's not some kind of lame racing game or the film Drive crammed with Google references, but it's a new cloud storage service, like Dropbox.
But what does it actually do?
Well, two main things really.
Firstly, you can store anything on Google Drive (anything within reason, we're talking all kinds videos, images, files, etc, not kittens) and because it exists in the cloud you can access it from pretty much anywhere else. That means no more awful, end it all now, sinking feeling when you realise you've left that important essay/presentation on your computer at home.
You can download Drive to your Mac or PC so it's easy to transfer everything across to a folder, like you can with Dropbox, that will also be stored in the cloud. You can get the Drive app on your Android phone too, with an iOS version in the pipeline.
However, Google Drive isn't just for storing things, it has Google Docs functionality built-in (in fact Google Drive has now eaten up Google Docs nom nom), so you can work on documents, amend them and collaborate with others as you usually do.
Oh and you can throw pretty much anything in there, like pdf, video, images and all kinds of different files.
Google Drive is very similar to Dropbox, but it offers the first 5GB of space for free as apposed to Dropbox's 2GB, which could well win over those who haven't used a cloud storage service in the past.
But who owns my stuff?
This all sounds very good and well until you start questioning whether you still fully own all of the content you add to Google Drive.
Well Cnet looked into Google Drive's terms of service and here's the interesting bit:
"Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.
"The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).
"You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours."
At first it seems that Google will only be fishing around in your content for fairly valid reasons, but interestingly there's no time limit AT ALL. So once it's in Google's hands it's presumably there forever.
Of course for most people that won't be a problem, but as Cnet points out these terms, "may well be enough to push away a great number of entrepreneurs and creative workers who rely on holding on to the rights to their own work."
Although this may not be a huge issue if you want to throw a few holiday snaps and admin files in there, in a way you're still relinquishing control of your stuff, even if it will improve the service. In our opinion this is really no big deal and hardly worth getting worried about, but it's probably something you need to consider before you start uploading anything and everything.
Google has started rolling out a number of new features to its social network today, including more ways to customise the content you see from your contacts and a different Hangouts interface.
Despite the fact a huge number of us have signed up to Google+ and still aren't using it anywhere near as much as Facebook (not yet anyway), the team appear to be making a big effort to improve the user experience of the site and provide users with what it describes in a recent blog post as, "a more functional and flexible version of Google+".
The new features include a 'dynamic ribbon' down the left hand side, which is basically where you can navigate around the social network, move the options (or 'apps') up and down, hide them, or hover over them to see even more quick ways to navigate through options.
One of the biggest changes has been to Google+ Hangouts, which now has its own dedicated page and makes it easier to talk with contacts and view popular Hangouts among other users. Google has also improved the look of photos and videos too, in an attempt to make people more inclined to share their content. And last but not least, profiles have had a revamp, with much bigger photos and a chat list that sits on the right-hand side of the screen like it does on Facebook, so you can see who's around for a natter.
The changes look interesting and we're particularly excited to see whether it's easier to navigate around the site with the new 'dynamic ribbon' or as we like to call it THE MENU BAR. However Google, we have a bone to pick with you. What does this sentence EVEN MEAN?!
"Simply put, we're hoping to make sharing more awesome by making it more evocative."