Google I/O 2012: Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q media streamer, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google+ & Project Glass
Google announced a slew of new hardware and software at this year’s I/O event for developers. From tablets to a funky-looking media streamer, to the next version of Android and even the futuristic Project Glass, the boys of Mountain View covered it all so let’s dive right in.
The Nexus 7 serves the same purpose as the Nexus smartphone lineup: it provides a pure Android experience, but on a tablet. The 7-inch slate was made in collaboration with hardware manufacturer Asus, and it packs a 1280×800 back-lit IPS display with scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass. It measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm and weighs an impressively light 340 grams. A quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA and 1GB of RAM power the tablet, and a 4325 mAh battery 9 hours of HD video playback and 300 hours of standby time. As far as sensors go, there’s an accelerometer, GPS, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope. WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, and NFC are also on board. Ports include Micro USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack, both located on the bottom of the device. There’s rear-facing camera, but you’ll find a 1.2MP front-facing camera for video chatting. 8GB and 16GB storage capacities are available to pre-order today through the Google Play storefront at $199 and $149, respectively. The tablet ships later this month and comes with a $25 credit for the Play store plus a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and other media-related extras. It runs the latest version of Android (that is 4.1 Jelly Bean, more on this later) and Google says it was “made for Google Play.” On the homescreen you’ll have quick access to games, your music, movie, and TV show libraries, and your book and magazine collections. In related news, the Google Play store has been updated and now sells magazines, TV shows, and movies can be rented and purchased.
In a not-so-surprising move, Google has brought its desktop Chrome browser to Android mobile devices. Dubbed Chrome for Android Beta, the new mobile browser focuses on speed, simplicity, and seamless sign-in and sync. The Chrome omnibox rests up top and search results are loaded in the background instantly as you type in it. Intuitive tabbed browsing is in tow, as is link preview and incognito mode. When you first launch the browser you are asked to sign-in with your Google account. Connecting your account to the browser allows you to view open tabs you left on your computer on your mobile device, get autocomplete suggestions based on searches you made on your computer, and sync your bookmarks across devices. Chrome for Android is now available to download from the Android Market, but for now it’s only compatible with Android phones and tablets running version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Hop after the break to watch an introductory demonstration.
If you couldn’t figure it out by reading the post title, Google’s web browser that could is being upgraded across the board. And when I say across the board, I really mean across platforms. In addition to bringing a slew of updates to the standard Chrome browser in version 8, Google also spilled more details about the Chrome Web Store and its forthcoming operating system based on the browser itself. All of the juicy details were shared at a Chrome-themed press event on Tuesday, just one day after Google dropped the Android 2.3 with Nexus S bomb. To say the G-Men dominated this week in tech would be a nasty understatement. Ready, set, dive…
Chrome Web Store: Everyone knows about Apple’s App Store, and it’s about time word of Google’s Chrome Web Store got around. The concept is simple. The Web Store houses Chrome Extensions, Themes, and most importantly web apps. What are web apps and how do they differ from plain ‘ol apps? Google describes them as “advanced interactive websites”, but essentially they are apps built specifically for use inside a browser. And that comes with perks–the best one being that you never have to worry about updating them. Since they live on the web in your browser, updates can be automatically pushed out from the developer at any time without you ever having to think about it. All web app purchases are tied to your Google Account. Perk alert! Since that’s the case, all your purchases app live in the cloud and not on your computer, meaning they can be accessed from any Internet-connected device with a browser (i.e. another computer, a smartphone, etc.). Google is also making it so that apps can work offline, leaving it up to the developer’s discretion. Many developers are already jumping on board to make web apps. At the press event Amazon showcased Kindle for the Web, an app that allows ebook readers to read their purchased titles inside a browser. And no surprise here; your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be saved and seamlessly transported to any device you have the Kindle app installed on (said devices include the iOS lineup, Android phones, and obviously a Kindle reader). The Store also hosts some games, but don’t expect to find anything mindblowing in that genre just yet. It’s up and running today, so head over to the Chrome Web Store and check it out. The layout will be familiar to you; app categories on the left, top paid and free on the right, featured apps in the middle. Go wild. (Click here for more…)
Sick and tired of the same old desktop browsing experience? Are you constantly logging into your Facebook and Twitter accounts and checking up on your latest RSS feeds? If you answered “yes” to one or both of these questions you might want to give RockMelt a spin. RockMelt, backed up Netscape founder Marc Andreeseen, is a modern browser with a social twist. First off, it’s fast. It’s built on Chromium, the open source project behind Google’s Chrome browser; so if you’re used to Chrome browsing speeds, you know what to expect. Here’s the social aspect. To use RockMelt you must sign into it with your Facebook account; that’s right–it’s the very first web browser you sign into. But there’s an upswing to this; you can access your browser information, including social integration, RSS feeds, and more, on any computer that has RockMelt installed. Social integration, right. So you log into the browser using your Facebook account. The left side of the browser populates a list of your Facebook friends and you can chat with them, send and receive messages, and view status updates. The right side of the browser stores your Twitter followers and their updated tweets, along with a running list of website icons representing individual RSS feeds so you can keep tabs on your most frequently visited sites. RockMelt boasts “push notifications” meaning that it will keep track of and alert you to updates from Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds. The browser also promotes URL sharing among your connected social networks; there’s a built-in URL shortener that’ll push your favorite sites and posts to friends. Search is faster, too. Worried about privacy? Don’t be. RockMelt developers promise that login information and settings are encrypted before they are sent over to RockMelt servers for cloud storage.
Want to get in on the RockMelt craze? The browser is currently in beta (so expect numerous bugs pop up) and the developers are enabling the Internet at large to participate in an early access hands on with it, so along as you’re willing to fork over your Facebook username and password (remember, that’s required to use the browser). Hop over to the RockMelt homepage to “connect for an invitation.” It runs on Windows and Mac. Look after the break for a video demonstration to learn more about RockMelt. For beta software it runs pretty well, and if you’re a heavy Facebook/Twitter user you’ll surely appreciate the social integration aspect.
On September 2 Google celebrated Chrome’s second birthday by releasing version 6.0.472.53. The faster and more streamlined version of Chrome features an even more minimalist and stripped down user interface. “We combined Chrome’s two menus into one, revisited the location of the buttons, cleaned up the treatment of the URL and the Omnibox, and adjusted the color scheme of the browser to be easier on the eyes,” reads the Google Chrome Blog.
Wow, that was a mouthful. Go ahead and download the new version of Chrome here.
Shock! Awe! Surprise! That’s right, Apple has actually approved the Opera Mini web browser to co-exist alongside its coveted Safari mobile browser on iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads. After playing around with Opera Mini, I think it’s safe to say it is definitely a worthy contender to Safari and a welcome addition to the App Store. It loads pages super fast “by compressing data by up to 90 percent before sending content to the device”; it features a unique tabbed browsing experience; booksmarks can be added and managed within the app; it has the “find in page” feature that allows you to search for specific keywords within web pages (very handy!); and it supports a tab & hold gesture to select, copy, and paste text and save images. The default Opera Screen provides a great place to start; you can customize it with your most frequently vistited sites. It comes preloaded with Facebook, Twitter, New York Times, and more. The only downside is that it does not support pinch-to-zoom. To zoom into text you double tap the screen, and you tap again to zoom back out. But you know what, the blazing speed at which it can load web pages sorta knocks that disadvantage down a notch. You can download Opera Mini today, it’s free! Full PR and a demo video are waiting after the break.
Apple devices do not support Flash video, Adobe retaliates with words [Update: Jobs shares his side]
Apple’s mobile devices that run the mobile verison of their web browser Safari, including the iPhone, iPod touch, and now iPad, do not support Flash video. Adobe Flash is a plugin for browsers that allows all kinds of video to play from sites like Hulu, ESPN, JibJab, and many others, including Flash-based games. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad it was hard not to notice the “Blue Lego Block of Ambiguity[TM]” that resides where a Flash video would normally play. Adobe immediately responded to the matter:
It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple’s DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers. And without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.
If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab — not to mention the millions of other sites on the web — I’ll be out of luck.
Adobe goes on to share that any other mobile devices like the Nokia N900 have no trouble at all supporting Flash video in their respective browsers. In a related blog post following this response, Adobe labels a section “The iPad provides the ultimate browsing experience?” Next to this title is a bunch of mockups Adobe created that show the iPad loading a handful of website that include the Blue Lego Block of Ambiguity[TM]. Adobe is striking back against Apple and is insisting that the iPad and the iPhone cannot promote “the ultimate browsing experience” without the support of Flash. Adobe employee Lee Brimelow believes that Apple does not want to include Flash into their browsers because it would take customers away from their iTunes/App Store ecosystem: “They don’t want you to go to Hulu or play Flash games because they worry that you won’t buy their apps.” The man makes a valid point. Either way, if Apple thinks their platforms can survive without Flash support, they better figure out an alternative way to watch all these videos. It won’t be long until people are fed up with not being able to watch their favorite TV shows with Hulu on Apple’s attractive but not 100% functional devices.
Update: This late-breaking news comes from Wired. At a recent town hall meeting in Cupertino, Steve Jobs addressed Apple employees, touching upon the latest remarks from Adobe and even take a jab at Google. He called Adobe “lazy” and said that ”Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5.” Strong words coming from Jobs. But truthful and honest nonetheless. HTML 5 will slowly but surely take the place of Flash as it becomes more widespread and implemented into many websites. YouTube is currently in beta with HTML 5 video playback. Though Flash is prone to crashes and HTML 5 is on the way, a gaping hole still exists for Apple’s products today because tons of videos rely on Flash. Unfortunately for Adobe this is a lose-lose situation; Adobe needs Apple to support Flash, but Apple does not need Adobe. And in a year or so, HTML 5 will likely wipe out the need for Flash for most devices.
Though Google has stated on many occasions that they are accepting of all phone manufacturers and welcome handset competition, Jobs had this to say about Google and their Android platform: “We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.” And what of Google’s don’t be evil mantra?: “It’s bullshit,” says Jobs. Oh, it’s on!