Google’s I/O Conference is happening at the Moscone Center out in beautiful downtown San Francisco this week. As happens at these Big Dev Lovefests, major announcements are made. Among other things, Google previewed its upcoming “Android L” release, which is said to be the biggest update to the mobile operating system yet. “Android L” features 5,000 new APIs for developers and plenty of interface changes for users with the “Material Design” approach that is supposed to add subtle depth and perspective to elements in screen. And after Google TV flopped, the company is taking another swing at the living room with Android TV — which like other streamers from companies with big content ecosystems, ties your phone and tablet to the television more tightly.
The Chromecast dongle, Google’s low-end entry into streaming, also got an update. Developers also got previews of Android Wear, the version of the system for wearables like watches and Android Auto, for the connected dashboard in your motor vehicle.
In other Google News, its newly acquired Nest company, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and also bought the security firm Dropcam for a reported $555 million dollars. Dropcam makes WiFi enabled video cameras with night vision, microphones and zoom capabilities. (This is not scary, right?) Google is also experimenting with its own domain registration service. It’s called Google Domains, but it’s still in the early-beta invite-only stage. And good news for the Google Play store — in the past year, quarterly revenue from its app sales has more than doubled, thanks to games and free apps that offer paid in-app upgrades.
But it’s not all Google this week. Yahoo, which has been trying to get attention for its editorial content lately, has a new software product out now in the Google Play store. The app is called Yahoo Aviate, and it’s a simplified replacement app launcher for Android. Aviate basically takes the concept of Google Now — useful little chunks of information displayed on your home screen — and displays them when it thinks you’ll need them, roughly linking your info to the time of day.
Over in Apple Land, a code explorer poking around the beta version of the iOS 8 software claims to found an unpublicized “City Tours” feature buried in the Apple Maps app. Samples of the feature are on the 9to5Mac site.
Match.com, eHarmony, PlentyOfFish, Christian Mingle and other dating websites are getting hit on hard by phishing scams. Netcraft, an Internet monitoring company, has detailed the attacks, in which hundreds of fraudulent PHP scripts out there stealing user names and passwords to compromise paid accounts. What can you do with a stolen dating-site subscription? For one: dating fraud.
Cloud storage prices are coming down, with users getting more space for less money. Microsoft has added a bonus 8 gigabytes to the 7 gigs OneDrive customers already get for free, making it a total of 15 gigs of server space. Office 365 subscribers using the OneDrive for Business option will soon be going from 25 gigs to 1 terabyte of space. Microsoft, known for its Windows Phone line, just launched its first Android smartphone. It’s the Nokia X2 and it is running a modified version of Android that kind of makes it look like…Windows Phone.
Both houses of Congress held hearings about the proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV this week as part of their anti-trust investigations. C-SPAN streamed the hearings, for those who had an interest or insomnia.
About that other major merger: the Comcast-Time Warner deal, the merger could also be affected by an FCC report on Internet broadband speeds. The report found that DSL was lagging behind fiber optic and cable, so how much choice do consumers actually have out there? This sort of puts a dent in one of Comcast and Time Warner’s big arguments for merging.
In related news, the Washington Post recently had an interesting piece about how the state of New York could but a big dent in that deal if it decides it’s not a good thing for the people of the Empire State. Because New York has its own cable franchise laws in place, it could block the merger from happening within state boundaries. Governor Andrew Cuomo has his own investigation underway.
Governors aren’t the only ones weighing in on fairness, competition and Net Neutrality. The mayors of several major cities at the US Conference of Mayors have adopted a resolution, which calls on the FCC “to enshrine the values of what is commonly referred to as net neutrality.”
The Supreme Court has handed down its ruling in that case of Every Major National TV Broadcaster v. Aereo, the feisty startup with the teeny-tiny antennas. Bad news for Aereo – the Supremes ruled 6 to 3 that the company’s retransmission of signals without paying a fee to the broadcasters does violate the Copyright Act. Aereo’s chief executive has said before that losing this case pretty much ends it for the company.
Also in regulatory news, The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has submitted a complaint against Amazon to the country’s anti-trust author. And one more bummer for Amazon — the Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the company cannot use drones for package delivery, at least for the immediate future. Policies do change with the times, however.
And finally, one last word on Google — but it’s not about I/O, acquisitions or product news. Last week, the Big G teamed up with the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others to launch the “Made with Code” initiative. As one might guess from the name, “Made With Code” is designed to get girls interested in coding, or as it’s called these days, the new literacy.
You go, girls. Future coders can find plenty of free instruction on the web. In fact, we talked about this back on Episode 20 and here’s our own Pop Tech Jam roundup of free instructional sites. Summer’s here and it’s time to work on your monitor tan!