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Thursday, May 18, 2017

All the new Google Home features we learned about at I/O | Ars Technica

"MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—So far, this year's Google I/O has been more about incremental updates than big new products and projects. Google's photo apps and services have gotten a range of updates, and the Google Assistant is getting new capabilities and coming to iOS. Google Home, the company's Amazon Echo competitor, is also getting a short list of new features, including expanded multimedia capabilities.

Google Home review: A step forward for hotwords, a step backward in capability

The "hands-free calling" feature is pretty much what it sounds like—yell at Google Home, and you can call people in your contact list. Home will use its own private phone number by default, but you can also link it with your personal number so the people you're calling will know who it is. The feature will be free in the US and Canada, and it will be enabled "over the next few months."

Home's music playback is also getting better. It will soon support non-premium Spotify accounts, Soundcloud, and Deezer, and Google will also add Bluetooth support so you can play other stuff directly from your phone, tablet, or laptop as you could with any Bluetooth speaker.

The Chromecast-enabled "play on my TV" feature is picking up support for new channels as well. The full list that Google showed off now includes YouTube, Netflix, Google Photos, HBO Now, Hulu, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies and TV, CBS All Access, the Food Network, the CW, HGTV, Red Bull TV, the Travel Channel, Crackle, the DIY Network, R-Viki, and the Cooking Channel.

Finally, Google Home can use your TV-connected Chromecast as a big display. It can show you things like weather and maps, and you can say "OK, let's go" to transfer maps from your TV to your phone without needing to re-type the addresses.

All the new Google Home features we learned about at I/O | Ars Technica

Net neutrality rules doomed as FCC starts teardown process - CNET

"On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on a proposal to strip out the existing regulations that govern net neutrality, or the concept that all internet traffic must be treated equally. This is an initial vote that opens the issue up for comments. The FCC will entertain public input until August, and hold a final vote later this year. But given the Republican majority on the commission, a vote to remove the existing rules is a virtual certainty.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed to head the commission by President Donald Trump, voted alongside fellow Republican Michael O'Rielly in support of the proposal, while Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted against it. There are typically five members on the commission, but two have yet to be appointed.

Today's vote represents the first significant step toward dismantling regulations that have been in place since 2015, potentially changing the way the internet works. Proponents (Democrats, internet companies and consumer advocacy groups) argue that the rules were necessary to ensure that internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast couldn't play favorites or charge more for faster access, while critics (Republicans, ISPs) said the rules were too onerous and stifled innovation and investment in infrastructure."

Net neutrality rules doomed as FCC starts teardown process - CNET

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Google Home throws down the gauntlet at I/O 2017 - CNET

The battle between the Google Home and the Amazon Echo keeps getting better and better. Yesterday, a year after Google first announced the Home and the Google Assistant, the search giant might have just shown the road map to put the Home ahead for good.
To this point, the Google Home smart speaker has lagged behind Amazon's competing Echo devices in terms of the things it can do. Amazon had a head start with Echo, bringing it to the market in 2014, and as a result, the Echo has more than 10,000 skills and works directly with dozens of internet connected hardware products. The Google Home only started with four device partners, but it has been catching up.
Since the Home speaker debuted last year, Google has quietly added and improved on a number of features -- flexible voice commands for controlling connected household devices, conversational recipe instructions in the kitchen, and personal assistance tied to your Google Calendar and Google Maps account. At its Google I/O developer's conference in Mountain View, California, Google added abilities that will be hard for Amazon to match, and announced better versions of a couple of Echo's recent upgrades.

The battle so far

The Home and the Echo have had an epic back and forth battle.Chris Monroe/CNET

The two-year-old Echo was clearly the superior device when the Home launched last November. Both devices are always-listening smart speakers that respond to your voice commands and act as a personal assistant, music streamer, and smart home controller, among other things.

Roughly a month ago, Google expanded its list of device partners for the Home and its built-in Google Assistant, which helped the Home compete more strongly against the Echo as a smart home control device. Then, the Google Home passed the Echo as a personal assistant with the ability to recognize multiple voices. This feature allows the Home to give more personalized assistance based on the account information, like Google Calendar entries, specific to each person that the Home has been trained to recognize.

Amazon struck back by rolling out voice calling to the Echo, adding notifications and announcing two new Echo devices; an Alexa-equipped camera called Echo Look and a device with a screen called Echo Show.

Amazon's head start and aggressive marketing have also given its Echo product line a powerful lead in market share. Research firm eMarketer estimates that 70 percent of people that own a smart speaker have either an Echo or one of the other products from the Echo line.

Google Home throws down the gauntlet at I/O 2017 - CNET

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Samsung Galaxy Book: The S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Rumors, specs, release date, price - CNET

"The Galaxy Note 8 will be Samsung's large-screen phone aimed at power users, and it's going to be big.

By "big," I don't just mean its size, though I'm guessing it'll have about the same dimensions as the Galaxy S8 Plus with its 6.2-inch screen. I mean that it'll be more important than any other Note phone ever made, for three main reasons. (By the way, we know that the Note 8 is a sure thing because Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told CNET so.) It will:

1.) Be the first Note model released after Samsung recalled 3 million Note 7 units due to battery fires. In that sense, it'll be the real test of the Note line's recovery even more so than the so far incident-free Galaxy S8.

2.) Give Samsung the chance to fix the S8's biggest problem, the awkward placement of the fingerprint reader to the right of the camera lens.

That could now go on the center back (like on the Google Pixel, LG G6 and Huawei P10) or -- if Samsung really gets its tech together -- under the glass. It could also jump on the dual-camera trend that the S8 passed up.

3.) Battle Apple's 10th anniversary iPhone, possibly called the iPhone 8, which we expect to arrive in September. Apple is expected to pull out all the stops for this one, so the competition could be fiercer than usual."

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Rumors, specs, release date, price - CNET