Microsoft is discontinuing its Office apps for Chromebook users in favor of web versions 

Since 2017, Microsoft has offered its Office suite to Chromebook users via the Google Play store, but that is set to come to an end in a few short weeks.

As of September 18, Microsoft is discontinuing support for Office (which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook) on Chromebook. Microsoft is not, however, abandoning the popular mobile device altogether. Instead of an app that is downloaded, Microsoft is encouraging users to go to the web instead.

“In an effort to provide the most optimized experience for Chromebook customers, Microsoft apps (Office and Outlook) will be transitioned to web experiences (Office.com and Outlook.com) on September 18, 2021,” Microsoft wrote in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. 

Microsoft’s statement also noted that “this transition brings Chromebook customers access to additional and premium features.” 

The Microsoft web experience will serve to transition its base of Chromebook users to the Microsoft 365 service, which provides more Office templates and generally more functionality than what the app-based approach provides. The web approach is also more optimized for larger screens than the app.

In terms of how Microsoft wants Chromebook users to get access to Office and Outlook, the plan is for customers to, “…sign in with their personal Microsoft Account or account associated with their Microsoft 365 subscription,” according to the statement. Microsoft has also provided online documentation to show users how to run Office on a Chromebook.

Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome OS, which is a Linux-based operating system. Chromebooks also enable Android apps to run, as Android is also Linux based, with apps downloaded from Google Play. It’s important to note that while support for Chromebooks is going away, Microsoft is not abandoning other Android-based mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.

For those Chromebook users that have already downloaded the Microsoft Office apps, the apps will continue to function after September 18, though they will not receive any support or future updates.

#android, #chrome-os, #chromebook, #cloud, #enterprise, #google-play-store, #laptops, #microsoft, #microsoft-365, #microsoft-office, #mobile-devices, #operating-systems, #outlook-com

Google launches Android 12 beta 4, hitting the platform stability milestone

Google has now taken another step towards the public release of the latest version of the Android operating system, Android 12. The company today released the fourth beta of Android 12, whose most notable new feature is that it has achieved the Platform Stability milestone — meaning the changes impacting Android app developers are now finalized, allowing them to test their apps without worrying about breaking changes in subsequent releases.

While the updated version of Android brings a number of new capabilities for developers to tap into, Google urges its developers to first focus on releasing an Android 12-compatible update. If users find their app doesn’t work properly when they upgrade to the new version of Android, they may stop using the app entirely or even uninstall it, the company warns.

Among the flagship consumer-facing features in Android 12 is the new and more adaptive design system called “Material You,” which lets users apply themes that span across the OS to personalize their Android experience. It also brings new privacy tools, like microphone and camera indicators that show if an app is using those features, as well as a clipboard read notification, similar to iOS, which alerts to apps that read the user’s clipboard history. In addition, Android 12 lets users play games as soon as they download them, through a Google Play Instant feature. Other key Android features and tools, like Quick Settings, Google Pay, Home Controls, and Android widgets, among others, have been improved, too.

Google has continued to roll out smaller consumer-facing updates in previous Android 12 beta releases, but beta 4 is focused on developers getting their apps ready for the public release of Android, which is expected in the fall.

Image Credits: Google

The company suggested developers look out for changes that include the new Privacy Dashboard in Settings, which lets users see which app are accessing what type of data and when, and other privacy features like the indicator lights for the mic and camera, clipboard read tools, and new toggles that lets users turn off mic and camera access across all apps.

There’s also a new “stretch” overscroll effect that replace the older “glow” overscroll effect systemwide, new splash screen animations for apps and keygen changes to be aware of. And there are a number of SDKs and libraries that developers use that will need to be tested for compatibility, including those from Google and third-parties.

The new Android 12 beta 4 release is available on supported Pixel devices, and on devices from select partners including ASUS, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, and ZTE. Android TV developers can access beta 4 as well, via the ADT-3 developer kit.

#android, #apps, #chrome-os, #computing, #google, #google-play, #mobile, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #software

Google ditches pay-to-play Android search choice auction for free version after EU pressure

Google is ditching a massively unpopular auction format that underpins an choice screen it offers in the European Union, it said today. Eligible search providers will be able to freely participate.

The auction model was Google’s ‘remedy’ of choice — following the 2018 EU $5BN antitrust enforcement against Android — but rivals have always maintained it’s anything but fair, as we’ve reported previously (here, here, here, for eg).

The Android choice screen presents users in the region with a selection of search engines to choose as a default at the point of device set up (or factory reset). The offered choices depend on sealed bids made by search engine companies bidding to pay Google to win one of three available slots.

Google’s own search engine is a staple ‘choice’ on the screen regardless of EU market.

The pay-to-play model Google devised is not only loudly hated by smaller search engine players (including those with alternative business models, such as the Ecosia tree-planting search engine), but it been entirely ineffectual at restoring competitive balance in search marketshare so it’s not surprising Google has been forced to ditch it.

The Commission had signalled a change might be coming, with Bloomberg reporting in May remarks by the EU’s competition chief, Margrethe Vesager, that it was “actively working on making” Google’s Android choice screen for search and browser rivals work. So it evidently heard the repeated cries of ‘foul’ and ‘it’s not working, yo!’. And — finally — it acted.

However, framing its own narrative, Google writes that it’s been in “constructive discussions” with EU lawmakers for years about “how to promote even more choice on Android devices, while ensuring that we can continue to invest in, and provide, the Android platform for free for the long term”, as it puts it.

It also seems to be trying to throw some shade/blame back at the EU — writing that it only introduced what it calls a “promotional opportunity” (lol) “in consultation with the Commission”. (Ergo, ‘don’t blame us gov, blame them!’)

In another detail-light paragraph of its blog, Google says it’s now making “some final changes” — including making participation free for “eligible search providers” — after what it describes as “further feedback from the Commission”

“We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen. These changes will come into effect from September this year on Android devices,” it adds.

The planned changes raise new questions — such as what criteria it will be using to determine eligibility; and will Google’s criteria be transparent or, like the problematic auction, sealed from view? And how many search engines will be presented to users? More than the current four, that’s clear.

Where Google’s own search engine will appear in the list will also be very interesting to see, as well as the criteria for ranking all the options (marketshare? random allocation?).

Google’s blog is mealy mouthed on any/all such detail — but the Commission gave us a pretty good glimpse when we asked (see their comment below).

It still remains to seen whether any other devilish dark pattern design details will appear when we see the full implementation.

But it’s worth noting that it’s not in Google’s gift to claim these changes are “final”. EU regulators are responsible for monitoring antitrust compliance — so if fresh complaints flow they will be duty bound to listen and react.

In one response to Google’s auction U-turn, pro-privacy search player DuckDuckGo was already critical — but more on the scope than the detail.

Founder Gabriel Weinberg pointed out that not only is the switch three years too late but Google should also be applying it across all platforms (desktop and Chrome too), as well as making it seamlessly easy for Android users to switch default, rather than gating the choice screen to set-up and/or factory reset (as we’ve reported before).

Another long-time critic of the auction model, tiny not-for-profit Ecosia, was jubilant that its fight against the search behemonth has finally paid off.

Commenting in a statement, CEO Christian Kroll said: “This is a real life David versus Goliath story — and David has won. This is a momentous day, and a real moment of celebration for Ecosia. We’ve campaigned for fairness in the search engine market for several years, and with this, we have something that resembles a level playing field in the market. Search providers now have a chance to compete more fairly in the Android market, based on the appeal of their product, rather than being shut out by monopolistic behaviour.”

The Commission, meanwhile, confirmed to TechCrunch that it acted after a number of competitors raised concerns over the auction model — with a spokeswoman saying it had “discussed with Google means to improve that choice screen to address those concerns”.

“We welcome the changes introduced by Google to the choice screen. Being included on the choice screen will now be free for rival search providers,” she went on. “In addition, more search providers will be included in the choice screen. Therefore, users will have even more opportunities to choose an alternative.”

The Commission also offered a little more detail of how the choice screen will look come fall, saying that “on almost all devices, five search providers will be immediately visible”.

“They will be selected based on their market share in the user’s country and displayed in a randomised order which ensures that Google will not always be the first. Users will be able to scroll down to see up to seven more search providers, bringing the total search providers displayed in the choice screen to 12.”

“These are positive developments for the implementation of the remedy following our Android decision,” the spokeswoman added.

So it will certainly be very interesting indeed to see whether this Commission-reconfigured much bigger and more open choice screen helps move the regional need on Google’s search engine market share.

Interesting times indeed!

#android, #antitrust, #chrome-os, #competition-law, #duckduckgo, #ecosia, #eu, #europe, #european-union, #gabriel-weinberg, #google, #google-search, #margrethe-vestager, #policy, #search-engine, #search-engines

Google updates its cross-platform Flutter UI toolkit

Flutter, Google’s cross-platform UI toolkit for building mobile and desktop apps, is getting a small but important update at the company’s I/O conference today. Google also announced that Flutter now powers 200,000 apps in the Play Store alone, including popular apps from companies like WeChat, ByteDance, BMW, Grab and DiDi. Indeed, Google notes that 1 in 8 new apps in the Play Store are now Flutter apps.

The launch of Flutter 2.2 follows Google’s rollout of Flutter 2, which first added support for desktop and web apps in March, so it’s no surprise that this is a relatively minor release. In many ways, the update builds on top of the features the company introduced in version 2 and reliability and performance improvements.

Version 2.2 makes null safety the default for new projects, for example, to add protections against null reference exceptions. As for performance, web apps can now use background caching using service workers, for example, while Android apps can use deferred components and iOS apps get support for precompiled shaders to make first runs smoother.

Google also worked on streamlining the overall process of bringing Flutter apps to desktop platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux).

But as Google notes, a lot of the work right now is happening in the ecosystem. Google itself is introducing a new payment plugin for Flutter built in partnership with the Google Pay team and Google’s ads SDK for Flutter is getting support for adaptive banner formats. Meanwhile, Samsung is now porting Flutter to Tizen and Sony is leading an effort to bring it to embedded Linux. Adobe recently announced its XD to Flutter plugin for its design tool and Microsoft today launched the alpha of Flutter support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for Windows 10 in alpha.

#adobe, #alpha, #android, #bytedance, #caching, #chrome-os, #computing, #flutter, #google, #google-i-o-2021, #google-pay, #linux, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #play-store, #samsung, #sony, #tc, #universal-windows-platform, #web-apps, #wechat, #windows-10

Chrome now uses Duplex to fix your stolen passwords

Google announced a new feature for its Chrome browser today that alerts you when one of your passwords has been compromised and then helps you automatically change your password with the help of… wait for it… Google’s Duplex technology.

This new feature will start to roll out slowly to Chrome users on Android in the U.S. soon (with other countries following later), assuming they use Chrome’s password-syncing feature.

It’s worth noting that this won’t work for every site just yet. As a Google spokesperson told us, “the feature will initially work on a small number of apps and websites, including Twitter, but will expand to additional sites in the future.”

Now you may remember Duplex as the somewhat controversial service that can call businesses for you to make hairdresser appointments or check opening times. Google introduced Duplex at its 2018 I/O developer conference and launched it to a wider audience in 2019. Since then, the team has chipped away at bringing Duplex to more tasks and brought it the web, too. Now it’s coming to Chrome to change your compromised passwords for you.

Image Credits: Google

“Powered by Duplex on the Web, Assistant takes over the tedious parts of web browsing: scrolling, clicking and filling forms, and allows you to focus on what’s important to you. And now we’re expanding these capabilities even further by letting you quickly create a strong password for certain sites and apps when Chrome determines your credentials have been leaked online,” Patrick Nepper, senior product manager for Chrome, explains in today’s announcement.

In practice, once Chrome detects a compromised password, all you have to do is tap the “change password” button and Duplex will walk through the process of changing your password for you. Google says this won’t work for every site just yet, but “even if a site isn’t supported yet, Chrome’s password manager can always help you create strong and unique passwords for your various accounts.”

It’ll be interesting to see how well this works in the real world. Every site manages passwords a little bit differently, so it would be hard to write a set of basic rules that the browser could use to go through this process. And that’s likely why Google is using Duplex here. Since every site is a little bit different, it takes a system that can understand a bit more about the context of a password change page to successfully navigate it.

In addition to adding this feature, Google is also updating its password manager with a new tool for important passwords from third-party password managers, deeper integration between Chrome and Android and automatic password alerts when a password is compromised in a breach.

#android, #assistant, #chrome, #chrome-os, #freeware, #google, #google-i-o-2021, #google-chrome, #operating-systems, #password, #password-manager, #product-manager, #security, #software, #united-states, #web-browsers, #web-browsing

Chromebook shipments grew 275% in Q1

New numbers from research firm Canalys point to continued growth for PCs in 2020/21, as the pandemic has forced many to rethink how – and where – they work. PC shipments have grown for four straight quarters. All told, the numbers (within which the firm lumps tablets, incidentally) grew 53% year over year.

Chromebooks were the major force in growth, according to the figures. The category jumped 275% y-o-y for Q1 to 12 million units. HP saw a pretty massive chunk of that, with 36.4% of the total market, up from 18.6% percent. Lenovo, Acer, Samsung and Dell rounded out the top five.

Image Credits: Canalys

The category’s growth continues to be driven primarily by the education sector. That’s long been the foothold for devices that have traditionally failed to crack through to mainstream usage. As many classrooms have been forced to go virtual, that category has continued to see impressive growth. And that may now be extending beyond education.

“Chromebooks are well and truly a mainstream computing product now,” Canalys’ Brian Lynch said in a release tied to the news. “While the education sector still accounts for the majority of shipments, their popularity with consumers and traditional commercial customers has reached new heights over the course of the last year.”

Tablets, too, had a solid quarter, after a period of middling sales. Education is a big driver there, as well, along with broader usage. Apple led the category with 38.2% of the market, with Samsung and Lenovo rounding out the top three. On the PC (plus tablets again) side, Lenovo leads the way, followed by Apple and HP.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #chromebooks, #hardware, #tablets

Google’s Anthos multi-cloud platform gets improved logging, Windows container support and more

Google today announced a sizable update to its Anthos multi-cloud platform that lets you build, deploy and manage containerized applications anywhere, including on Amazon’s AWS and (in preview) on Microsoft Azure.

Version 1.7 includes new features like improved metrics and logging for Anthos on AWS, a new Connect gateway to interact with any cluster right from Google Cloud and a preview of Google’s managed control plane for Anthos Service Mesh. Other new features include Windows container support for environments that use VMware’s vSphere platform and new tools for developers to make it easier for them to deploy their applications to any Anthos cluster.

Today’s update comes almost exactly two years after Google CEO Sundar Pichai originally announced Anthos at its Cloud Next event in 2019 (before that, Google called this project the ‘Google Cloud Services Platform,’ which launched three years ago). Hybrid- and multi-cloud, it’s fair to say, takes a key role in the Google Cloud roadmap — and maybe more so for Google than for any of its competitors. And recently, Google brought on industry veteran Jeff Reed to become the VP of Product Management in charge of Anthos.

Reed told me that he believes that there are a lot of factors right now that are putting Anthos in a good position. “The wind is at our back. We bet on Kubernetes, bet on containers — those were good decisions,” he said. Increasingly, customers are also now scaling out their use of Kubernetes and have to figure out how to best scale out their clusters and deploy them in different environments — and to do so, they need a consistent platform across these environments. He also noted that when it comes to bringing on new Anthos customers, it’s really those factors that determine whether a company will look into Anthos or not.

He acknowledged that there are other players in this market, but he argues that Google Cloud’s take on this is also quite different. “I think we’re pretty unique in the sense that we’re from the cloud, cloud-native is our core approach,” he said. “A lot of what we talk about in [Anthos] 1.7 is about how we leverage the power of the cloud and use what we call ‘an anchor in the cloud’ to make your life much easier. We’re more like a cloud vendor there, but because we support on-prem, we see some of those other folks.” Those other folks being IBM/Red Hat’s OpenShift and VMware’s Tanzu, for example. 

The addition of support for Windows containers in vSphere environments also points to the fact that a lot of Anthos customers are classical enterprises that are trying to modernize their infrastructure, yet still rely on a lot of legacy applications that they are now trying to bring to the cloud.

Looking ahead, one thing we’ll likely see is more integrations with a wider range of Google Cloud products into Anthos. And indeed, as Reed noted, inside of Google Cloud, more teams are now building their products on top of Anthos themselves. In turn, that then makes it easier to bring those services to an Anthos-managed environment anywhere. One of the first of these internal services that run on top of Anthos is Apigee. “Your Apigee deployment essentially has Anthos underneath the covers. So Apigee gets all the benefits of a container environment, scalability and all those pieces — and we’ve made it really simple for that whole environment to run kind of as a stack,” he said.

I guess we can expect to hear more about this in the near future — or at Google Cloud Next 2021.

 

#anthos, #apigee, #aws, #ceo, #chrome-os, #cisco, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #enterprise, #google, #google-cloud, #google-cloud-platform, #ibm, #kubernetes, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #red-hat, #sundar-pichai, #vmware

Google Meet gets a refreshed UI, multi-pinning, autozoom and more

Google today announced a major update to Meet, its video-meeting service, which brings several user interface tweaks for desktop users, as well as quite a bit of new functionality, including multi-pinning so that you can highlight multiple feeds instead of just one, as well as new AI-driven video capabilities for light adjustments, autozoom, and a new Data Saver feature that limits data usage on slower mobile networks.

If you’re anything like me, you’re increasingly tired of video meetings (to the point where I often just keep the camera off). But the reality is that this style of meetings will be with us for the foreseeable future, whether we like them or not.

Image Credits: Google

Google notes that today’s release is meant to make meetings “more immersive, inclusive, and productive.” The new UI doesn’t look to be a radical change, but it puts more of the controls and features right at your fingertips instead of hiding them in a menu. It also consolidates them in the bottom row instead of the current system that spreads out features between the main menu bar and an additional small menu at the top.

For presenters who don’t want to see themselves on the screen, Meet now also lets you minimize or completely hide your own video feed — and if you really want to glance into your own eyes, you can also pin your feed to the rest of the grid. Google says it also plans to soon let you turn off your self-feed across all Meet calls.

Image Credits: Google

Talking about pinning, one feature that seems especially useful is the ability to highlight multiple feeds. This new multi-pinning capability will make it easier to focus on the participants in a chat that are most active, for example. This feature will roll out in the coming months.

And coming in a few months, some of those highlighted feeds may look a bit more interesting (or annoying, depending on your point of view) because one new feature Google has planned — but isn’t ready to roll out yet — is video background replacement. For now, Google will only offer three scenes: a classroom, a party and a forest. The company says more will follow, but it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to bring your own videos to this feature anytime soon.

Image Credits: Google

Other new features in this release include Meet’s capability to automatically spruce up your video feed a bit to make sure you’re more visible in a dark environment and enhance your video when you are sitting in front of a bright background. This will roll out in the coming weeks. There’s also autozoom, which uses AI to automatically zoom in on you and put you in the middle of your frame. That’s coming to paid Google Workspace subscribers in the coming months.

#artificial-intelligence, #chrome-os, #google, #google-search, #google-workspace, #google-talk, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #software, #tc

Google speeds up its release cycle for Chrome

Google today announced that its Chrome browser is moving to a faster release cycle by shipping a new milestone every four weeks instead of the current six-week cycle (with a bi-weekly security patch). That’s one way to hasten the singularity, I guess, but it’s worth noting that Mozilla also moved to a four-week cycle for Firefox last year.

“As we have improved our testing and release processes for Chrome, and deployed bi-weekly security updates to improve our patch gap, it became clear that we could shorten our release cycle and deliver new features more quickly,” the Chrome team explains in today’s announcement.

Google, however, also acknowledges that not everybody wants to move this quickly — especially in the enterprise. For those users, Google is adding a new Extended Stable option with updates that come every eight weeks. This feature will be available to enterprise admins and Chromium embedders. They will still get security updates on a bi-weekly schedule, but Google notes that “those updates won’t contain new features or all security fixes that the 4 week option will receive.”

The new four-week cycle will start with Chrome 94 in Q3 2021, and at this faster rate, we’ll see Chrome 100 launch into the stable channel by March 29, 2022. I expect there will be cake.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #chromium, #enterprise, #firefox, #freeware, #google, #google-chrome, #microsoft-edge, #operating-systems, #software, #web-browsers

Version 2 of Google’s Flutter toolkit adds support for desktop and web apps

At an online event, Google today announced Flutter 2, the newest version of its open-source UI toolkit for building portable apps. While Flutter started out with a focus on mobile when it first launched two years ago, it spread its wings in recent years and with version 2, Flutter now supports web and desktop apps out of the box. With that, Flutter users can now use the same codebase to build apps for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux and the web.

“The big thing that justifies the major version number shift is, of course, the availability of web and desktop support,” Flutter product lead Tim Sneath told me. “And that’s just a fairly profound pivot. It’s rare for products that you suddenly have all these additional endpoints.”

Image Credits: Google

He noted that because of Flutter’s open-source nature, web and desktop support had been “cooking in the open” for a while, so the addition of these endpoints isn’t a surprise. A lot of that work in getting these new platforms ready for the 2.0 release involved getting the performance up to par on these new platforms.

It’s worth noting, though, that Flutter desktop support is still behind an early-release flag in Flutter’s stable release channel and Google says developers should think of it as a “beta snapshot.” Web support, however, has transitioned from beta to stable and has become just another target for building apps with Flutter.

Image Credits: Google

On the web platform, specifically, Sneath noted that the team deliberately started out with a very standard, DOM-centric approach. But while that worked fine, it also meant performance was held back by that, especially for more advanced features. Over the course of the last year or so, the team started working on what it calls Canvas Kit. This WebAssembly-based project takes the same Skia graphics engine that powers Android and Chrome itself and makes it available to web apps.

“What that’s meant is that we can now essentially bypass the core HTML — sort of the document-centric parts of the web platform — and really use the app-centric parts of the web platform without leaving [behind] things like auto-complete of text or passwords and all the things that keep the web feeling very unique,” Sneath said.

Image Credits: Google

On the desktop, Google is announcing that Canonical is going all-in on Flutter and making it the default choice of all its future desktop and mobile apps.

Microsoft, too, is expanding its support for Flutter and working with Google on Windows support for Flutter. Given Microsoft’s interest in Android, that’s maybe no huge surprise, and indeed, Microsoft today is releasing contributions to the Flutter engine to help support foldable Android devices.

In total, Google notes, there are now over 15,000 packages for Flutter and Dart from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Huawei, Alibaba, eBay and Square.

As always, there are dozen of other smaller updates to Flutter in this update, too.

Looking ahead, Sneath noted that the Flutter team plans to spend more time on Flutter as a framework for embedded devices and other somewhat non-traditional platforms. He also noted that the team is interested in how Flutter can help power ambient computing experiences.

“As we think about the ambient computing worlds where there are these core premises behind the ambient computing aspects — things like: can it be searched easily? Can people make money off of the apps that they build and do it in a responsible way? We’re building support for those kinds of services. Better analytics, better ads frameworks, connectivity into things like Firebase and Google Cloud, so that people can not just take advantage of Flutter but the broader ecosystem services that Google provides,” Sneath explained.

#android, #chrome-os, #developer, #ebay, #flutter, #google, #linux, #macos, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #software, #tc, #web-apps, #web-development, #web-programming

Chromebooks had a banner 2020

2020 was a weird year by any measure. Certainly it was a wild ride for those in the consumer electronics category. Take smartphones — first there were manufacturing delays out of China, followed by an across the board decrease in demand. There are lots of reasons contributing to the latter, but the simplest and most prevalent one is that people just didn’t want to spend money to upgrade their devices.

But the pandemic also changed how — and where — many people work and learn. It was an abrupt shift for many that required tech investments, even in the face of economic uncertainty. After years of stagnating, plateauing and dropping, PC and tablet sales saw a spike. Earlier this month, IDC noted a nearly 20% increase in tablet sales for Q4, owing in part to a backlog in PC availability.

New figures from the firm (first noted by GeekWire) point to some significant gains for Chromebooks during that time period. According to IDC’s PC Tracker, the models comprised 10.8% of the PC market for 2020; that’s up from 6.4% a year prior. The number also pushed past MacOS’s 7.5% for the year.

Even so, Apple still grew as an overall percent of the market, up from 6.7%. Both of those numbers have eaten into Windows’ figures — though Microsoft continues to dominate the market at 80.5% (down from 85.4%).

The figures reflect positive reports from other firms. In January, Canalys noted, “Chromebook vendors enjoyed new heights of success in Q4, as the overall market almost quadrupled in size over the same period a year ago.” Pricing is certainly a factor, along with an overall scramble as schools have gone virtual amid COVID-19 concerns.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #chromebooks, #hardware, #idc, #macos, #windows

Google launches the first developer preview of Android 12

Almost exactly a year after Google announced the first developer preview of Android 11, the company today released the first developer preview of Android 12. Google delayed the roll-out of Android 11 a bit as the teams and the company’s partners adjusted to working during a pandemic, but it looks like that didn’t stop it from keeping Android 12 on schedule. As you would expect from an early developer preview, most of the changes here are under the hood and there’s no over-the-air update yet for intrepid non-developers who want to give it a spin.

Image Credits: Google

Among the highlights of the release so far — and it’s important to note that Google tends to add more user-facing changes and UI updates throughout the preview cycle — are the ability to transcode media into higher quality formates like the AV1 image format, faster and more responsive notifications and a new feature for developers that now makes individual changes in the platform togglable so they can more easily test the compatibility of their apps. Google also promises that just like with Android 11, it’ll add a Platform Stability milestone to Android 12 to give developers advance notice when final app-facing changes will occur in the development cycle of the operating system. Last year, the team hit that milestone in July when it launched its second beta release.

“With each version, we’re working to make the OS smarter, easier to use, and better performing, with privacy and security at the core,” writes Google VP of Engineering Dave Burke. “In Android 12 we’re also working to give you new tools for building great experiences for users. Starting with things like compatible media transcoding, which helps your app to work with the latest video formats if you don’t already support them, and easier copy/paste of rich content into your apps, like images and videos. We’re also adding privacy protections, refreshing the UI, and optimizing performance to keep your apps responsive.”

Image comparison from AVIF has landed by Jake Archibald

Obviously, there are dozens of developer-facing updates in Android 12. Let’s look at some in detail.

For the WebView in Android 12, Google will now implement the same SameSite cookie behavior as in Chrome, for example. Last year, the company slowed down the roll-out of this change, which makes it harder for advertisers to track your activity across sites,  in Chrome, simply because it was breaking too many sites. Now, with this feature fully implemented in Chrome, the Android team clearly feels like it, too, can implement the same privacy tools in WebView, which other apps use to display web content, too.

As for the encoding capabilities, Burke notes that, “with the prevalence of HEVC hardware encoders on mobile devices, camera apps are increasingly capturing in HEVC format, which offers significant improvements in quality and compression over older codecs.” He notes that most apps should support HEVC, but for those that can’t, Android 12 now offers a service for transcoding a file into AVC.

Image Credits: Google

In addition, Android 12 now also supports the AV1 Image File Format as a container for images and GIF-like image sequences. “Like other modern image formats, AVIF takes advantage of the intra-frame encoded content from video compression,” explains Burke. “This dramatically improves image quality for the same file size when compared to older image formats, such as JPEG.”

Image Credits: Google

As with every Android release, Google also continues to tinker with the notification system. This time, the team promises a refreshed design to “make them more modern, easier to use, and more functional.” Burke calls out optimized transitions and animations and the ability for apps to decorate notifications with custom content. Google now also asks that developers implement a system that immediately takes users from a notification to the app, without an intermediary broadcast receiver or service, something it recommended before.

Image Credits: Google

Android 12 will now also offer better support for multi-channel audio with up to 24 channels (a boon for music and other audio apps, no doubt), spatial audio, MPEG-H support, and haptic-coupled audio effects with the strength of the vibration and frequency based on the audio (a boon for games, no doubt). There’s also improved gesture navigation and plenty of other optimizations and minor changes across the operating system.

Google also continues to drive its Project Mainline forward, which allows for an increasing number of the core Android OS features to be updated through the Google Play system — and hence bypasses the slow update cycles of most hardware manufacturers. With Android 12, it is bringing the Android Runtime module into Mainline, which will then let Google push updates to the core runtime and libraries to devices. “We can improve runtime performance and correctness, manage memory more efficiently, and make Kotlin operations faster – all without requiring a full system update,” Burke says. “We’ve also expanded the functionality of existing modules – for example, we’re delivering our seamless transcoding feature inside an updatable module.”

You can find a more detailed list of all of the changes in Android 12 here.

Image Credits: Google

Developers who want to get started with bringing their apps to Android 12 can do so today by flashing a device image to a Pixel device. For now, Android 12 supports the Pixel 3/3 XL, Pixel 3a/3a XL, Pixel 4/4 XL, Pixel 4a/4a 5G and Pixel 5. You can also use the system image in the Android Emulator in Google’s Android Studio.

#android, #chrome-os, #computing, #dave-burke, #developer, #gif, #google, #google-pixel, #jpeg, #mobile-devices, #operating-systems, #pixel, #smartphones, #tc, #technology

Google’s BeyondCorp Enterprise security platform is now generally available

Google today announced that BeyondCorp Enterprise, the zero trust security platform modeled after how Google itself keeps its network safe without relying on a VPN, is now generally available. BeyondCorp Enterprise builds out Google’s existing BeyondCorp Remote Access offering with additional enterprise features. Google describes it as “a zero trust solution that enables secure access with integrated threat and data protection”.

Over the course of the last few years, Google — and especially its Cloud unit — has evangelized the Zero Trust model and built a large partner network around this idea. Those partners include the likes of Check Point, Citrix, CrowdStrike, Symantec and VMWare.

As part of BeyondCorp Enterprise, businesses get an end-to-end zero trust solution that includes everything from DDoS protection and phishing-resistant authentication, to the new security features in the Chrome browser and the core continuous authorization features that protect every interaction between users and resources protected by BeyondCorp.

“The rapid move to the cloud and remote work are creating dynamic work environments that promise to drive new levels of productivity and innovation. But they have also opened the door to a host of new security concerns and sparked a significant increase in cyberattacks,” said Fermin Serna, Chief Information Security Office at Citrix. “To defend against them, enterprises must take an intelligent approach to workspace security that protects employees without getting in the way of their experience following the zero trust model.”

#beyondcorp, #chrome-os, #citrix, #citrix-systems, #computing, #crowdstrike, #enterprise, #google, #google-chrome, #security, #software, #symantec, #technology, #vmware, #vpn, #zero-trust

Samsung backtracks on $1000 Chromebooks with cheaper Galaxy Chromebook 2

CES 2021 is next week, and announcements are starting to hit the wire. Last year, Samsung launched the Galaxy Chromebook, a premium, $1,000 Chrome OS laptop that felt like a successor to the Google Pixelbook. Just like Google, after experiencing the sales of a premium, $1,000 Chromebook, Samsung has decided to tone down the premium-ness in subsequent versions, and today’s “Galaxy Chromebook 2,” is a cheaper follow-up.

Last year’s Galaxy Chromebook featured a headline-grabbing 13.3-inch, 4K OLED display, but this year, Samsung has hacked and slashed at the spec sheet to get down to a lower price. Instead of a 4K OLED we’ve got a 1080p LCD. The laptop is slower, thicker, and heavier than last year, with less storage, fewer cameras, and less RAM. All this cost-cutting has nearly cut the price in half, though: it now starts at $549.

For the starting $549, you get a 13.3-inch, 1920×1080 (16:9) LCD touchscreen, a 1.9GHz, 14nm, dual-core Intel Celeron 5205U, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and a 45.5Wh battery. For $699, there is an upgraded model with an Intel Core i3-10110U, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

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#chrome-os, #samsung, #tech

Samsung simplifies with a lower-price premium Chromebook

Happy almost CES! Sure the year’s biggest consumer electronics show hasn’t officially kicked off, but, well, what do such arbitrary signposts really mean in a year like 2021, right? Samsung just dropped what’s almost certainly one of its biggest pieces of news for the show, with the arrival of the Galaxy Chromebook 2.

The two-in-one follows almost a year to a day after the announcement of the original. It appears to share a fair bit of the charm of its predecessor, but notably has a much improvement price point. This time out the Chrome OS powered portable starts at a far more reasonable $549 – down from $999.

Image Credits: Samsung

Mind you, that’s for the one running a 10th gen Intel Celeron processor. If you want the Core i3, that starts at $699. It’s a bit of a jump, but a better starting point for users looking at the product as day-to-day machine. And besides, it’s still significantly less expensive than the original. Keep in mind here that last year’s model started with an i5 – which is to say the price drop comes with a bit of a processor downgrade.

Battery life was an issue on the original and is still a bit of a question here. The device now sports a QLED display (which Samsung claims is “world’s first” for a Chromebook), rather than the original’s 4K AMOLED, which could go a ways toward improving longevity.

The changes between the first and second gen product are a pretty clear indicator that companies are still trying to figure out precisely what a “premium Chromebook” entails. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that the phrase was a bit of an oxymoron. The company’s computing GM Shoneel Kolhatkar sums up the general though process here pretty well in the associated press announcement,

Many kids grew up using Chromebooks in school, and as they enter the workforce, their needs evolve, they’re looking for premium, powerful hardware that can elevate that intuitive Google experience. We designed the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with these users in mind, taking the popular features from Galaxy Chromebook—incredible visuals, great specs, and gorgeous design and color—and bringing them to a wider base of customers.

In a sense, Samsung is taking a similar journey as the one Google made from the Pixelbook to the Pixelbook Go. And with Google pretty quiet on that front for the moment, there’s a decent sized market opening for Samsung here.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 arrives later this quarter, sporting a 13.3 inch display, 4/8GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage. And yes, it still comes in “Fiesta Red” or gray, if you prefer.

#ces-2021, #chrome-os, #chromebook, #hardware, #samsung

Google, Intel, Zoom and others launch a new alliance to get enterprises to use more Chrome

A group of industry heavyweights, including Google, Box, Citrix, Dell, Imprivata, Intel, Okta, RingCentral, Slack, VMware and Zoom, today announced the launch of the moderncomputing.com.

The mission for this new alliance is to “drive ‘silicon-to-cloud’ innovation for the benefit of enterprise customers — fueling a differentiated modern computing platform and providing additional choice for integrated business solutions.”

Whoever wrote this mission statement was clearly trying to see how many words they could use without actually saying something.

Here is what the alliance is really about: even though the word Chrome never appears on its homepage and Google’s partners never quite get to mentioning it either, it’s all about helping enterprises adopt Chrome and Chrome OS. “The focus of the alliance is to drive innovation and interoperability in the Google Chrome ecosystem, increasing options for enterprise customers and helping to address some of the biggest tech challenges facing companies today,” a Google spokesperson told me.

I’m not sure why it’s not called the Chrome Enterprise Alliance, but Modern Computing Alliance may just have more of a ring to it. This also explains why Microsoft isn’t part of it, though this is only the initial slate of members and others may follow at some point in the future.

Led by Google, the alliance’s focus is on bringing modern web apps to the enterprise, with a focus on performance, security, identity management and productivity. And all of that, of course, is meant to run well on Chrome and Chrome OS and be interoperable.

“The technology industry is moving towards an open, heterogeneous ecosystem that allows freedom of choice while integrating across the stack. This reality presents both a challenge and an opportunity,” Google’s Chrome OS VP John Solomon writes today.

As enterprises move to the cloud, building better web applications and maybe even Progressive Web Applications that work just as well as native solutions is obviously a noble goal and it’s nice to see these companies work together. Given the pandemic, all of this has taken on a new urgency now, too. The plan is for the alliance to release products — though it’s unclear what form these will take — in the first half of 2021. Hopefully, these will play nicely with any browser. A lot of these ‘alliances’ fizzle out quite quickly, so we’ll keep an eye on what happens here.

Bonus: the industry has a long history of alliance like these. Here’s a fun 1991 story about a CPU alliance between Intel, IBM, MIPS and others.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #citrix, #citrix-systems, #cloud-computing, #computing, #dell, #google, #google-chrome, #ibm, #identity-management, #intel, #microsoft, #mips, #okta, #operating-systems, #os, #ringcentral, #software, #spokesperson, #tc, #vmware, #web-applications, #web-apps, #web-browsers, #zoom

Chrome adds new capabilities for developers, introduces new privacy rules for extension developers

At the Chrome Dev Summit, Google’s Chrome team today announced a number of new capabilities for developers, updated rules for extension developers, as well as new steps to improve the overall performance of the browser.

In addition, the Chrome team also announced a major change for extension developers: sometime in 2021, users will get more granular control over which sites an extension can access and starting in January, every extension will feature a ‘privacy practices’ section on the Chrome Web Store that details what kind of data the extension collects.

Image Credits: Google

The Chrome team also today announced that it will launch Manifest V3 in mid-January, when Chrome 88 hits the stable channel. That’s something a lot of extension developers — especially those working on ad blockers — have been dreading. Manifest V3 introduces new limits for extension developers that are meant to prevent them from accessing too much data from their users, but it also puts relatively severe limits on how extensions can interact with a web page. Google now says it has made some changes to V3 based on the feedback it has received, but this is probably not the last we’ve heard of this.

Overall, however, if you’re a user, the most welcome news from today’s event may be that, after working to reduce the overall memory footprint of the browser with a couple of updates earlier this year, the team is now tackling the V8 JavaScript engine and reducing its memory footprint as well. In addition, the team found some new ways to speed up V8 and eliminate any parsing pauses by loading a site’s JavaScript files in parallel to make sure they can be used the moment a page wants to execute them.

The team also continues to work on new ways to speed up the browsing experience, too. The team is doing this by actually changing the way it compiles Chrome, something it first talked about this summer, when these changes arrived in the Chrome beta channel.

“Based on looking at the usage patterns of Chrome, we asked ourselves — with insights of how users are actually using Chrome — are there things we could do in how we compile chrome itself that would make it more efficient? And we found that the answer is yes,” Google’s Ben Galbraith told me. “[…] We call it profile-guided optimization and in [certain] scenarios, we found up to 10 percent faster page loads due to these task-specific compiler optimizations.” Most of the scenarios are in the 2 to 5 percent range, but given how mature most browser engines are now, even that’s a significant difference.

The team is also recently worked on improving tab throttling and how it allocates resources to foreground and background tasks. Galbraith noted that the plan is to do more work along these lines moving forward.

Developers, too, will get some new tools to improve the performance of their web apps as part of Google’s Web Vital initiative, which aims to provide developers with the right performance metrics to help them understand how users experience their web apps. Google Search will use some of these core metrics in its rankings, starting May 2021. Google already highlights this data in the Chrome Experience Report, in its Search Console and elsewhere, but today it is also launching an open-source Web Vitals Report tool to help developers create custom visualization based on the Web Vitals data they’ve sent to Google Analytics. Google Analytics doesn’t currently surface this data in the context of Web Vitals, so developers can now run these reports using Google’s own hosted tool or fork the code and run them on their own infrastructure.

Image Credits: Google

“When you look at the different metrics, we’re focused on the things that we understand the most: loading metrics, visual stability and the like, and interaction — so when you click on something, something actually happens. The mission for these metrics is to be able to really understand the quality of the experience that you’ve got.,” Google’s Dion Almaer explained.

And there is more. On the privacy front, Google continues to iterate on its Privacy Sandbox model. It’s adding two new experiments here with the Click Conversion Measurement API to measures ad conversions without using cross-site identifiers and the new Trust Token APIs that allow a site to issue a cryptographic token to a user it trusts. The idea behind this token is that the browser can then use this token in another context as well to evaluate that a user is who they say they are — and not a bot or an impostor with malicious intent.

In addition, there are also new features for developers who want to write PWAs, updates to how developers can accept payments in Chrome and more.

Image Credits: Google

#api, #ben-galbraith, #chrome-os, #chrome-web-store, #dion-almaer, #forward, #google-chrome, #javascript, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #v8, #web-apps, #web-browsers

Google reveals a new Windows zero-day bug it says is under active attack

Google has dropped details of a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Windows, which it says hackers are actively exploiting. As a result, Google gave Microsoft just a week to fix the vulnerability. That deadline came and went, and Google published details of the vulnerability this afternoon.

The vulnerability has no name but is labeled CVE-2020-17087, and affects at least Windows 7 and Windows 10.

Google’s Project Zero, the elite group of security bug hunters which made the discovery, said the bug allows an attacker to escalate their level of user access in Windows. Attackers are using the Windows vulnerability in conjunction with a separate bug in Chrome, which Google disclosed and fixed last week. This new bug allows an attacker to escape Chrome’s sandbox, normally isolated from other apps, and run malware on the operating system.

Microsoft did not immediately comment when contacted by TechCrunch, but Project Zero’s technical lead Ben Hawkes said in a tweet that Microsoft plans to issue a patch on November 10.

But it’s unclear who the attackers are or their motives. Google’s director of threat intelligence Shane Huntley said that the attacks were “targeted” and not related to the U.S. election.

It’s the latest in a list of major flaws affecting Windows this year. Microsoft said in January that the National Security Agency helped find a cryptographic bug in Windows 10, though there was no evidence of exploitation. But in June and September, Homeland Security issued alerts over two “critical” Windows bugs — one which had the ability to spread across the internet, and the other could have gained complete access to an entire Windows network.

#chrome-os, #computer-security, #elite, #google, #google-chrome, #malware, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #security, #software, #vulnerability, #windows-7, #windows-xp

Google announces slew of Chrome OS features to help extend enterprise usage

As companies have moved to work from home this year, working on the internet has become the norm, and it turns out that Chrome OS was an operating system built for cloud-based applications. But most enterprise use cases are a bit more complex, and Google introduced some new features today to make it easier for IT to distribute machines running Chrome OS.

While the shift to the cloud has been ongoing over the last few years, the pandemic has definitely pushed companies to move faster, says John Maletis, project manager for engineering and UX for Chrome OS. “With COVID-19, the need for that productive, distributed workforce with some employees in office, but mostly [working from home] is really in the sights of businesses everywhere, and it is rapidly accelerating that move,” Maletis told TechCrunch.

To that end, Cyrus Mistry, group product manager at Google says that they want to make it easier for IT to implement Chrome OS and they’ve added a bunch of features to help. For starters, they have created a free readiness tool that lets IT get the lay of the land of which applications are ready to run on Chrome OS, and which aren’t. The tools issues a report with three colors: green is good to go, yellow is probable and red is definitely not ready.

To help with the latter categories, the company also announced the availability of Parallels for Chrome OS, which will enable companies with Windows applications that can’t run on Chrome OS to run them natively in Windows in a virtual machine. Mistry acknowledges that companies running Windows this way will need to issue higher end Chromebooks with the resources to handle this approach, but for companies with critical Windows applications, this is a good way to extend the usage of Chromebooks to a broader population of users.

To make it easier to issue machines ready to use of the box, Google is also introducing zero touch distribution, which allows manufacturers to set up machines for a domain ready to use out of the box. All the user has to do is turn it on and it’s ready to use.

“We can do what’s called zero touch, which is the devices can be already enrolled by the manufacturers, which means they will know the domain and they can now drop ship directly,” Mistry explained. That means these machines are equipped with the right settings, policies, applications, certificates and so forth, as though IT had set up the machine for the user.

In another nod to making life easier for IT, Google  is offering a new set of certified applications like Salesforce, Zoom and Palo Alto Networks which have been certified to work well on Chrome OS. Finally, the company announced that it will be enabling multiple virtual work areas with the ability to drag and drop between them, along with the ability to group tabs and search for tabs in the Chrome browser, which should be ready in the next couple of months.

As Maletis pointed out, the company may have been ahead of the market when it released Chrome OS almost a decade ago, but this year has shown that companies need the cloud to stay in operation and Chrome OS is an operating system built from the ground up for the cloud.

#chrome-os, #cloud, #covid-19, #enterprise, #google, #google-chrome, #operating-systems

Google calls DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit “deeply flawed” in GIF-laden blog response

Google was clearly anticipating today’s U.S. Department of Justice antitrust complaint filing – the company posted an extensive rebuttal of the lawsuit to its Keyword company blog. The post, penned by SVP of Global Affairs and Google Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker, suggests that the DOJ’s case is “deeply flawed” and “would do nothing to help consumers,” before going into a platform-by-platform description of why it thinks its position in the market isn’t representative of unfair market dominance that would amount to antitrust.

Google’s blog post is even sprinkled with GIFs – something that’s pretty common for the search giant when it comes to its consumer product launches. These GIFs include step-by-step screen recordings of setting search engines other than Google as your default in Chrome on both mobile and desktop. These processes are both described as “trivially easy” by Walker in the post, but they do look like a bit of an own-goal when you notice just how many steps it takes to get the job done on desktop in particular, including what looks like a momentary hesitation in where to click to drill down further for the “Make Default” command.

Image Credits: Google

Google also reportedly makes reference to companies choosing their search engine as default because of the quality of their service, including both Apple and Mozilla (with a link drop for our own Frederic Lardinois). Ultimately, Google is making the argument that its search engine isn’t dominant because of a lack of viable options fostered by anti-competitive practices, but that instead it’s a result of building a quality product that consumers then opt in to using from among a field of choices.

The DOJ’s full suit dropped this morning, and an initial analysis suggests that this scrutiny is perhaps inopportunely timed in terms of its proximity to the election to actually have any significant teeth. There is some indication that a more broad, bipartisan investigation with support from state level attorney generals on both sides of the aisle could follow later, however, so it’s not necessarily all just going to go away regardless of election outcome.

#apple, #chrome-os, #doj, #freeware, #gif, #google, #google-search, #google-chrome, #kent-walker, #mozilla, #operating-systems, #search-engine, #search-engines, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

Adobe Lightroom gets a new color grading tool, auto versions, graphical watermarking and more

At its MAX conference, Adobe today announced the launch of the latest version of Lightroom, its popular photo management and editing tool. The highlights of today’s release are the introduction of a new color grading tool that’s more akin to what you’d find in a video editor like Adobe Premiere or DaVinci Resolve, auto versioning that’s saved in the cloud (and hence not available in Lightroom Classic) and graphical watermarks, in addition to a number of other small feature updates across the application.

Adobe had already teased the launch of the new color grading feature last month, which was probably a good idea given how much of a change this is for photographers who have used Lightroom before. Adjusting color is, after all, one of the main features of Lightroom and this is a major change.

Image Credits: Adobe

At its core, the new color wheels replace the existing ‘split toning’ controls in Lightroom.

“Color Grading is an extension of Split Toning — it can do everything Split Toning did, plus much more,” Adobe’s Max Wendt explains in today’s announcement. “Your existing images with Split Toning settings will look exactly the same as they did before, your old Split Toning presets will also still look the same when you apply them, and you can still get the same results if you had a familiar starting point when doing Split Toning manually.”

My guess is that it’ll take a while for many Lightroom users to get a hang of these new color wheels. Overall, though, I think this new system is more intuitive than the current split toning feature that a lot of users regularly ignored.

The new color grading feature will be available across platforms and in Lightroom Classic, as well as Camera Raw.

The other new feature Adobe is highlighting with this release is graphical watermarks (available on Windows, Mac, iOS, iPadOS, Android and Chrome OS), that augments the existing text-based watermarking in Lightroom. This does exactly what the name implies and the watermarks are automatically applied when you share or export and image.

Image Credits: Adobe

The most important overall quality of life feature the team is adding is auto versions (also available on Windows, Mac, iOS, iPadOS, Android and Chrome OS). This makes it far easier to save different versions of an image — and these versions are synced across platforms. That way, you can easily go back and forth between different edits and revert those as necessary, too.

Image Credits: Adobe

With its new ‘best photos’ feature, Adobe is now also using its Ai smarts to find the best photos you’ve taken, but only on iOS, iPadOS, and Android, Chrome OS and the web. It’ll look at the technical aspects of your photo, as well as whether your subjects have their eyes open and face forward, for example, and the overall framing of the image. Users can decide how many of their images make the cut by toggling a threshold slider.

Another nifty new feature for Canon shooters who use Lightroom Classic is the addition of a tethered live view for Canon – with support for other cameras coming soon. With this, you get a real-time feed from your camera, making it easier to collaborate with others in real time.

 

#adobe, #adobe-lightroom, #android, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #canon, #chrome-os, #google-chrome, #ipad, #lightroom, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #photo-management, #software, #video-editor

Microsoft is building a price comparison engine into its Edge browser

With its Edge browser now stable, Microsoft’s current focus for its Chromium-based browser is to build features that differentiate it from the competition.

With the holiday season coming up fast (though who knows what that will actually look like this year), it’s maybe no surprise that one of the first new features the company is announcing is a price comparison tool as part of its ‘Collections’ bookmarking service. That was always an obvious next step, but it’s nice to see Microsoft add some more functionality here.

Also coming to Edge is the general availability of its integration between Collections and Pinterest, as well as a new screenshot tool for capturing web content, improved PDF support and an update to its Teleparty extension for streaming TV shows in sync with your friends and chat about it in your browser’s sidebar.

In addition, you can now also start free video meetings with your friends and family (or co-workers), right from the browsers through an integration with Microsoft’s Meet Now service. You can have up to 50 people in these video chats, share screens and record these sessions. While this is rolling out in Edge first, it’s also coming to Outlook on the web and the Windows 10 taskbar in the next few weeks.

Image Credits: Microsoft

You can’t say Microsoft held back on new features with this release, but the highlight is surely the new price comparison engine, though.

“We’ve been talking about how collections is a great feature for anyone who wants to do research — whether that’s research in education or work, but a lot of people do research for shopping,” said Divya Kumar, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for its browser and search tools. “We’ve really started to talk about this rhythm of, ‘okay, if use drop things into Collections, we should be really smart enough to give you the data that you’re looking for.’ This felt like a really natural next step for us to do.”

As long as Edge — through its connection with Microsoft Bing‘s existing price comparison engine — recognizes that you’re saving a product site, maybe from Amazon or Best Buy, it’ll show you the option to compare prices right in the browser tools bar. The next logical step now is for the team to add alerts when prices change and Kumar tells me that this is on the roadmap, together with several other features the team wasn’t ready to discuss yet.

Microsoft says it does not get affiliate fees when you buy through one of the links in Collections.

Talking about shopping, the team is also launching its Bing Rebates cashback program out of beta now (after shutting down a somewhat similar program a while back). The company signed up the likes for Walmart, Expedia, Walgreens and Nvidia for this program (though Nvidia only gives you a whopping 0.5% cashback). Still, it may just get some people to use Bing, though you have to sign up as a Microsoft Rewards member to participate.

“Rebates is a great part of the shopping story that we’re trying to land in terms of enabling smarter shopping experiences in the browser,” said Kumar.

In addition, through its Give with Bing program, you can now use your Microsoft Rewards points to donate to charitable organizations and until the end of the year, Microsoft will match your gift. This is live in the including: U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

As somebody who works on the web and takes screenshots all day, the updated screenshotting tool is also worth a look. Edge could already help you take screenshots, but until now, all you could do was copy what was on your screen. Now, you can also grab content from further down the page and then save it or share it directly from Edge.

Image Credits: Microsoft

If you’re an iOS user and have switched to Edge there — or thought about it — the news here is that you can now select Edge as your default browser there, a feature Apple finally enabled with the launch of iOS 14.

#artificial-intelligence, #bookmark, #chrome-os, #chromium, #computing, #freeware, #google-chrome, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-kin, #pdf, #pinterest, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

G Suite is now Google Workspace

Google is rebranding G Suite, its set of online productivity and collaboration tools for businesses that include the likes of Gmail, Drive, Docs and Meet. The new name is Google Workspace, a name the company already hinted at when it first introduced a set of new collaboration tools and Google Meet integrations for the service earlier this year. Now those new tools are coming out of preview and with that, the company decided to also give the service a new name and introduce new logos for all the included productivity apps, which are now being used — and paid for — by more than 6 million businesses.

Image Credits: Google

G Suite, as the brand for Google’s paid offering, originally launched in 2016. In a press briefing ahead of today’s announcement, Google’s Javier Soltero, the company’s VP and GM for what is now Google Workspace, noted that the company wanted to ensure that the service that people use is the same thing that people buy.

Image Credits: Google

“By selecting Google Workspace, we get the brand association with Google, which is really important to us,” he said. “These products are flagship products for Google itself — and the ability to actually describe the product in the same way, whether it’s to a buyer or to a user.” Google, he added, wants its customers to see Workspace as a product that brings together all the tools they need to get their work done.

What’s maybe far more important than the brand, though, is that Google is also launching a few new features for G Suite Workplace today. For the most part, these are the Meet, Chat and Rooms integrations the company already announced earlier this summer. Google is now integrating all of these collaboration tools across its applications, with Gmail currently being the one service where they all come together.

Image Credits: Google

Among the new features that are coming soon are the ability to create and collaborate on documents with guests in Chat rooms and to preview linked files in Docs, Sheets and Slides without having to open them in a new tab. Whenever you @mention somebody in a document, Workplace will also pop up a smart chip, as Google calls it, to show you contact details and suggest actions (think starting a video call or chat — or to email them if you’re old school).

Gmail and Chat already feature a picture-in-picture mode that allows you to have Google Meet video calls in those services. This feature will roll out to Docs, Sheets and Slides in the coming months, too.

Pricing will mostly remain the same, though the naming is changing here a bit, too. The cheapest plan, Business Starter, starts at $6/month and users who need more storage and support for larger meetings can opt for the Business Standard plan for $12/user/month. What’s new is the $18/user/month Business Plus plan that includes additional security features and compliance tools like Vault and mobile device management capabilities.

#chrome-os, #cloud-applications, #collaboration-tools, #computing, #g-suite, #gm, #gmail, #google, #google-workspace, #javier-soltero, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #tc, #workspace

Microsoft updates its Endpoint Manager with improved macOS support and more

At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced a number of new features for the Microsoft Endpoint Manager, the company’s unified platform for managing and securing devices in an enterprise environment. The service, which combines the features of the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager with the cloud-based tools of Intune, launched just under a year ago. Today’s updates build on the foundation the team created at the time and add improved macOS and iPad support, as well as new tools for connecting mobile devices to on-premises apps and additional productivity tools based on the date the company gathers from the service. The company is also making it easier for corporate IT departments to provision devices for employees remotely.

If anything, the pandemic has only accelerated both the growth of this business for Microsoft and the need for companies to manage their remote devices.

“It really is about bringing this cloud and all the intelligence that we had in Intune together with Config Manager and making it act as one,” Brad Anderson, Microsoft corporate VP for the Commercial Management Experiences team, told me. “And it’s been so fascinated to see how the pandemic accelerated people wanting and needing to use that. When the pandemic first hit – and as I go back to March 8th or 10th, in the US, the calls that I was having almost every day with CIOs centered around, ‘my VPN is overwhelmed. How am I going to patch on keep all my systems updated?’”

Today’s announcements build on the work Microsoft has done on this service over the course of the last year. After launching support for scripting on macOS earlier this year, for example, the company today announced a new “first-class management experience on macOS” that brings deploy scripts, but also improved enrollment experiences and app lifecycle management feature to the platform.

Endpoint Manager now also supports Apple’s Shared iPad for Business functionality and will help businesses deploy iPads to their users and allow them to log in with Azure Active Directory accounts. This gives users two separate portions on the device: one for work and one for everything else.

Another new feature is Microsoft Tunnel. This gives businesses a VPN that can cover the entire device or single apps to ensure that their employees’ devices are secure and compliant with their internal policy to access their networks.

“The key thing [with Microsoft Tunnel] is that this is all integrated into our conditional access,” Anderson explained. “And so when that VPN comes up, before access is granted to the data or to the apps, the conditional access engine that we’ve built inside of Microsoft 365 has that point of view on the trust of the identity and the trust of the device. That really is the key differentiator on that. I’ll tell you, between you and I, that one feature is probably the single feature that customers who are running another MDM and then the Microsoft Endpoint Manager — that’s the one they’re waiting for.”

Endpoint Manager now also supports the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) environment. That’s been a massive growth area for the company — one that has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Anderson told me, the company saw 10x growth for WVD through the pandemic. “Now, Windows Virtual Desktop is that first-class citizen inside Microsoft Endpoint Manager. So you can manage your virtual endpoints just like you manage your physical endpoints. All your policies are applicable, all your apps are clickable. And it just makes it easier to be able to use that as one of the tools you have to empower your users,” he said.

Another area of Endpoint Manager, which may only seem tangentially related at first, is Microsoft’s Productivity Score. There are two aspects to this service, though: employee experience and technology experience. Productivity Score is meant to help businesses better understand how their employees are working — and identify areas where companies can improve. On the technology side, that also means understanding which apps crash, for example, or why laptops slow down.

“Here’s one of the key scenarios,” said Anderson. “We’ll get a call every once in a while that says, like, ‘hey, my users are all having a great experience with Office 365 but I’ve got a handful of users for whom it’s slow.’ More often than not, that’s a networking issue. And so every time a user, for example, opens a file or saves a file, opens an attachment, we get telemetry back that helps us understand the operations of that. We probably know when an ISP in the south of France sneezes, because Office 365 is so ubiquitous now.”

The other new feature here is what Microsoft calls Endpoint Analytics. With this, Microsoft can now provide businesses with details information about when apps on their employees’ devices crash – no matter whether that’s an internal app, a third-party service — or a Microsoft app.

In addition to these technology scores, Productivity Score is also getting new categories like meetings, so managers can see how many meetings their employees have, as well as a new teamwork category.

#chrome-os, #computing, #enterprise, #ipad, #microsoft, #microsoft-365, #microsoft-ignite-2020, #mobile-devices, #network-management, #software, #system-administration, #tc

Android security bug let malicious apps siphon off private user data

A security vulnerability in Android could have allowed malicious apps to siphon off sensitive data from other apps on the same device.

App security startup Oversecured found the flaw in Google’s widely-used Play Core library, which lets developers push in-app updates and new feature modules to their Android apps, like language packs or game levels.

A malicious app on the same Android device could exploit the vulnerability by injecting malicious modules into other apps that rely on the library to steal private information, like passwords and credit card numbers, from inside the app.

Sergey Toshin, founder of Oversecured, told TechCrunch that exploiting the bug was “pretty easy.”

The startup built a proof-of-concept app using a few lines of code and tested the vulnerability on Google Chrome for Android, which relied on a vulnerable version of the Play Core library. Toshin said the proof-of-concept app was able to steal a victim’s browsing history, passwords, and login cookies.

But Toshin said that the bug also affected some of the most popular apps in the Android app store.

Google confirmed the bug, rated 8.8 out of 10.0 for severity, is now fixed. “We appreciate the researcher reporting this issue to us, and as a result it was patched in March,” said a Google spokesperson.

Toshin said app developers should update their apps with the latest Play Core library to remove the threat.

#android, #app-store, #apps, #chrome-os, #computing, #google-allo, #google-play, #operating-systems, #security, #smartphones, #spokesperson

Google makes building Android apps on Chrome OS easier

Google today launched ChromeOS.dev, a new site that aims to help developers get started with building Android apps for the company’s Linux-based operating system. With today’s update, Google is also making it easier to build and test Android applications on chromebooks.

The new ChromeOS.dev site, which is available in English and Spanish for now, is meant to “help developers maximize their capabilities on the platform through technical resources/tutorials, product announcements, code samples and more,” a Google spokesperson told us. As Google notes in today’s announcement, in the last quarter, Chromebook unit sales were up 127% year-over-year in the last quarter, compared to 40% for notebook sales in general.

To help Android developers do all of their work on a Chromebook if they so desire, Google now offers the full Android Emulator on Chrome OS to test apps right on their Chromebooks. The team also made deploying apps on Chrome OS (M81 and newer) much easier. Developers can now deploy and test apps directly without having to use developer mode or connect devices via USB.

Image Credits: Google

In addition to these Android-centric updates, Google also today launched a small but welcome update to the Linux beta, with a focus on the terminal. With this, Linux on Chrome OS now features an improved terminal that now includes tabs, shortcuts, themes and redesigned terminal settings.

Android Studio, too, is getting a minor update with a new Primary/Detail Activity Template that now better supports building apps for large-screen devices like Chromebook, tablets and foldables (right in time for Microsoft’s Surface Duo announcement today).