François Beaufort, the developer who recently made headlines by outing Chromebook Pixel, is stirring up things again. He uncovered code that all but assures Google Now will soon come to Chrome and Chrome OS. I can't overstate how enormously game-changing the service will be. Google Now is the purest evolution of sync and the killer app for the contextual cloud computing era.
We are on the cusp of Star Trek computing, where information is available at the command of your voice and the machine is a personal assistant that anticipates you. Google Now delivers a hint of this future on Android devices. Bringing it to PCs puts the search and information giant ahead of everyone because, with the exception of a possible future Microsoft-Facebook partnership, no other company has the resources to provide so much personalized information to so many people in so many places in so many ways.
Almost a year and a half ago, Motorola introduced the skinny Droid Razr smartphone which was followed shortly by its Droid Razr Maxx younger brother, thicker but with a beefed-up battery onboard. Originally the two devices came with Android 2.3 Gingerbread but Google's subsidiary upgraded both to Ice Cream Sandwich in mid-2012.
And, now, Motorola has another surprise in store for Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx owners -- Android 4.1.2 is coming. The Verizon-branded handsets will be able to take advantage of a plethora of new features and improvements courtesy of the first Jelly Bean iteration. There are also a number of bug fixes and less branded apps included alongside the coveted software upgrade, which bears the "98.72.16.XT912.Verizon.en.US" moniker.
Valentine's Day is all about romance, but whom -- or what -- do you really love? The stereotypical geek fawns over his or her gadgets and spends hours on PC (smartphone or tablet) instead of being with family or friends. Surely that describes you, and me, for that matter.
On this day of Cupid's arrows, I confess where they struck gadgets and other goodies and bound us in everlasting love. Take my wife, please, but leave my tech toys. She'll understand -- ah, right?
Coming from Android or iOS, Windows Phone 8 is an eye-opening smartphone operating system. It sets the bar pretty high when it comes to looks and performance -- the design is simply beautiful and refreshing, and the software responsive and fluid -- but it never really manages to outshine its main rivals. After living with the HTC Windows Phone 8X for a while, I can't help but notice glaring oversights in an otherwise solid proposition. The package is not complete.
You see, being pretty and going fast does not cut it among the fierce world of Android and iOS. Microsoft needs to take a good look around and take charge by solving the shortcomings of Windows Phone 8. Fact is, it's easy to pick faults with the immature app selection, like many journalists do, but that's more of a chicken and egg problem. What the software giant has to do is build on the current platform by offering better basic functionality, functionality that's necessary for a greater user experience.
Investors rewarded Google today, pushing shares up close to 6.5 percent soon after the opening bell and staying in that range. At 12:09 PM EST, the stock traded at $748.23, up 6.45 percent. Google opened at $735.83, up from yesterday's $702.87 close.
After the closing bell, on January 22, Google delivered fourth quarter and 2012 results that clearly satisfy someone. For the year, Google revenue reached $50.18 billion, up 32 percent from $37.9 billion in 2011. Motorola contributed $4.14 billion. Net income: $10.74 billion or $32.81 earnings per share. Average analyst consensus was $41.41 billion revenue and $39.73 earnings per share. Oh, the wiles of investors. Yearly EPS missed the Street, as it did for the quarter.
Ever since leaked ROMs started to surface, more than two months ago, it was obvious that Samsung was planning to officially release Android 4.1 Jelly Bean for the popular Galaxy S II smartphone. The only question at the time was: When?
At the time of writing this article Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, build number JZO54K, is available for the international variant of the Galaxy S II (codename "I9100") in Spain, with other European markets likely to follow in the upcoming period. The available official distribution comes hot off the press as it ships with a January 14 time-stamp.
With the latest official build, Galaxy S II owners can expect a revamped Touch Wiz skin, with design cues borrowed from the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II user interfaces. The most noteworthy improvements over the previous build, based on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, include Project Butter for increased responsiveness and fluidity, redesigned lockscreen, and new widgets, as well as an updated notification bar with a higher toggle selection.
Today, I formally begin covering Google earnings, as I have done for Microsoft (a decade) and Apple (about six years). This first report won't be as thorough as the others, as I get my head around the financials, which share little in common with APPL and MSFT other than money. Today's earnings announcement is refreshing respite from third quarter's, when an incomplete press release pushed out early and while the market was open.
For calendar fourth quarter, revenue rose 36 percent to $14.42 billion, year over year; net revenue, excluding Traffic Acquisition Costs, was $9.83 billion, up from $8.13 billion. Net income climbed to $2.89 billion up from $2.71 billion. That's $8.62 earnings per share, including costs associated with discontinued operations. Operating income was $3.39 billion, down from $3.51 billion year over year.
Later this month, I plan to jump cold feet into the next computing era by making a tablet my primary PC. I was all primed to start last year, but improved Google Chromebooks derailed the experiment. New year is here and good time for a computing resolution. Already, I made major computing platform shift in 2012 -- ARM, Android and Chrome OS. I'll write about the journey, which surely will tumultuous, at least to start.
I won't go alone. Yesterday morning, my wife asked about trading up to a larger tablet (she used the Nexus 7 I bought her in July). The request was totally unexpected. I added her as another user to my Nexus 10 and let her play around. She likes! She likes! So I ordered her the larger tablet, planning to sell the older one (and some other gear, to cover cost). The idea: We would together go tablet as main devices, with Chromebook as backup (hey, sometimes you need Flash, for example). We will share my Nexus 7, which has HSPA+ radio, to carry around when out and about (me sitting in the man chair while the women shop; she while, say, waiting for her dad at the doctor's office). But both of us will primarily use our own Nexus 10s.
I join colleagues Mihaita Bamburic, Alan Buckingham and Wayne Williams recounting what tech I used in 2012. But unlike them, I made dramatic platform changes, more significant than first using Windows over New Years holiday 1994, buying a reburbished PowerBook in February 1999, adopting Facebook and Twitter in 2006 or purchasing Nexus One in January 2010. Each of these marked major platform changes -- and some not always lasting. Consider this: in early 2012, I owned a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 MacBook Air, iPhone 4S and iPad 3. I end the year using Chromebook and Android smartphone and tablets.
During the year I moved from OS X and Windows running on Intel to an ARM-and-Chrome OS laptop, and after several failed attempts at adopting tablets (three generations of iPads, really), I embraced not one but two Android slates. I store all my data in the cloud -- local storage is now merely a way station between destinations rather than personal repository. This old dog is learning new tricks, and if I make such dramatic platform changes what does that mean for younger users who are more flexible and not as financially or habitually Apple/Microsoft/Intel committed? Look around, the PC era rapidly evaporates around you and its disappearance will be difficult to ignore in 2013.
People that want to try out Google's latest voice assistant on green droid devices are confined by the search giant to use either of the two Jelly Bean iterations. However, Google Now also makes its way onto Ice Cream Sandwich through third-party app GNow Handlebars.
Previous to GNow Handlebars, the process of installing Google Now onto Android 4.0 mostly involved flashing files in a custom recovery like ClockworkMod or TWRP. Now the same result can be achieved simply by opening the app and selecting the voice assistant to kick off the installation. There is also a restore option available that brings back the older Google Search, which should come in handy if something goes wrong.
Google first introduced its Siri-like voice search Google Now in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Functionality was rather limited at first, but the search giant eventually added new "cards" (data feeds on user-selected topics) and even Gmail integration. With the latest iteration released today, users can do a lot more with Google Now, including dictate Google+ posts and show United Airlines boarding passes.
Users can power up Google Now, tap on the microphone icon, say "Post to Google Plus" and then simply add their message. Automatic posting is not enabled, so users can edit and select the circles which will see the message. Another new feature is the ability to scan barcodes, which is triggered by the fairly intuitive command "Scan a barcode". Using the camera, Google Now allows users to take a picture of the item in order to display relevant product information.
The LG-manufactured Nexus 4 is nearly perfect. Unless you have no other choice, perhaps because of unsupported cellular carrier and binding contractual commitment, put Google's newest smartphone at the top of your must-buy list. The device satisfies in all the right places -- battery life, call quality, display clarity, size and visibility, operating system and performance. There are other Androids with comparable or better hardware, but they typically slap on a secondary UI and ship with older OS. It's not the measure of one attribute, or even a couple, but many combined that make Nexus 4 so good.
But nearly isn't perfect. Nexus 4's flaws, while subtle, will be serious for some potential buyers. There is no 4G LTE, for example. The feature is built-in to the Snapdragon processor but not properly enabled. The phone is HSPA+ for data, which works on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile USA. No LTE is a deal-breaker for some people, as seen in commments here and elsewhere. Something else: LG copied Apple, which put glass on the back of iPhone 4 and 4S and rightly abandoned the design with the newest handset. Double-sided glass makes the phone less durable than should be, particularly if dropped. Finally, many Galaxy Nexus users won't find its successor to be a compelling upgrade; much depends on what they use their phones for.
US Thanksgiving is a time for reflection on the year behind, with plenty of time to ponder resolutions for January 1st. Yesterday, I posted about the things Microsoft should be grateful for in 2012. Today, I followed up with another, for Google. For consistency's sake, the list numbers eight, in line with Microsoft's, for which I chose to hat-tip Windows 8.
The list is by no means comprehensive, just some things that stand ahead of others -- and it is organized from least to most important. Google had a great year, perhaps the best ever. Few companies released more innovative products, affecting so many people and building such positive brand awareness.
In December 2011, I asserted: "Google Nexus tablet in six months is a year too late". The search and information giant proved me wrong. After failing to quickly respond to iPad and leaving Android leaderless, Google has recovered with a bang-up Nexus device strategy. Damn, this is my second tablet mea culpa -- the first about iPad nearly 18 months ago.
Tomorrow, Google expands the number of available Nexus screens to three, all running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean: 4.7-inch smartphone that replaces Galaxy Nexus as flagship; 7-inch tablet updated with more storage for purchase price and new 3G model added; 10.1-inch slate with higher screen resolution than iPad 4. The devices are "pure Google" and produced by LG, ASUS and Samsung, respectively. The original Nexus 7 released in July, receiving rave reviews and generating, ASUS asserts, about 1 million sales per month.
That was fast, if it ever was. Don't blink or the so-called PC era will pass you by. For years, I've called it the cloud-connected device era because of the deeper meaning: Context. But more appropriately, the new epoch is contextual computing, which really extends a transition underway since the World Wide Web opened to the masses about 20 years ago. During the two earlier computing eras, mainframes and PCs, location defined the user. During the contextual computing era, the user defines location. If you listen to analysts obsessed with selling services to enterprises or companies like Apple, post-PC is all about devices. It's anything but.
Context is everything today. I started writing about the concept circa 2004, borrowing from my boss of the day -- Michael Gartenberg. The concept is simple: People are satisfied with what they've got on hand. In context of the airport, a hand-held game console is good enough, while at home the person prefers Xbox and big-screen PC. But because of the cloud connected to an increasing number of mobile devices, context is a much bigger, broader and badder technology trend.