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Google Cuts Android Ties with Huawei After Trump’s Blacklisting of the Mobile Giant

Google has blocked Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from accessing its Android mobile platform, meaning Huawei devices will no longer be able to receive the latest Android updates or access the company’s applications and services, including Google Play, Maps and the Gmail app.

It was another huge blow to Huawei in a matter of days, the first coming from the Trump administration when it blacklisted the Shenzhen-headquartered company last week – an obvious fallout of the ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

But, not everyone agrees that the US government’s move was a trade war-related decision made in haste.

“Other nations must not make the mistake of thinking President Trump’s recent executive order banning companies like Huawei from US networks is merely an afterthought of the trade war,” Retired Brig. Gen. Robert S. Spalding – Special Assistant to the Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Va. – wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

“The severity of President Trump’s declaration underscores just how seriously the US views this issue, and the UK must recognise this strength of feeling,” he said, adding: “To miss the significance of his actions would be a grave misjudgement of how seriously we take our security in an ever-more dangerous world.”

Google said its decision was in compliance with the executive order Trump signed on Wednesday, prohibiting US firms from doing business with companies believed to be involved in “activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interest.”

Although White House officials refrained from identifying China and Huawei as the intended target of the draconian decree, it didn’t take long for the US Commerce Department to add Huawei to the list of companies that the government considers detrimental to American interests.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson said on Monday.

Huawei devices will continue to receive Android services that are publicly available via open source licensing.

The spokesperson also said that “Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

Huawei responded by saying that it would continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to its smartphone and tablet users, without clarifying how the ban would affect new Huawei devices.

The company did, however, highlight its “substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world.”

“As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry,” it said.

Meanwhile, China has slammed the US government’s move to blacklist Huawei, saying that it will do all that is required to protect the “legitimate” interests of the nation’s companies.

“China has always stressed that the concept of national security should not be abused. It should not be used as a tool to push forward trade protectionism,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing.

“China will take all the necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese firms,” he said.

Huawei believes that imposing a business embargo on Huawei would “limit the U.S. to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the U.S. lagging behind in 5G deployment and eventually harming the interests of U.S. companies and consumers.”

Refuting the allegation that its products pose a security threat to the US, Huawei said that it was open to talks with the US administration to address their concerns.

“We are ready and willing to engage with the US government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security.”

At the G20 Summit last year, both the superpowers had agreed to halt additional tariffs on each other’s goods for a period of ninety days to give themselves enough time to engage in meaningful negotiations and find a mutually acceptable solution to their escalating trade disputes.

Six months on, the disputes continue and have, in fact, compounded after the Trump administration raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to a whopping 25 percent, threatening to impose 25 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well.

Of course, China counterattacked by levying higher tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products.

“The tariff hike by the United States will only bring greater difficulties to the consultations,” Feng said.

“We urge the United States to cancel the wrong practices as early as possible, avoiding greater losses to Chinese and American companies and consumers, and causing a ‘recession-like’ impact on the world economy,” the spokesman added.

According to China, there are three fundamental differences between the two nations that need to be addressed in totality before the issues can be amicably resolved.

“To reach any agreement, China’s three core concerns must be properly resolved,” Feng said.

The three points of contention that Feng was referring to are as follows:
Since tariffs were the root cause for the trade war between the two countries, they must be totally done away with by both sides.

The second issue is concerning the additional volume of US goods that China is supposed to import, according to a statement issued last week by Liu He – China’s Vice Premier and lead trade negotiator – who did not provide any further details

The third is about how the draft agreement is worded in order to secure a non-partisan deal.

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From The Editors Technology

Google Employees Worldwide Stage Sit-in to Protest Retaliation at Workplace

Google employees held a #NotOKGoogle sit-in on Monday (May 1) at offices around the world to protest against the so-called “culture of retaliation” being pursued by the company against workers for staging a #GoogleWalkout last year.

“From being told to go on sick leave when you’re not sick, to having your reports taken away, we’re sick of retaliation,” organizers of the ‘Google Walkout For Real Change’ tweeted. “Six months ago, we walked out. This time, we’re sitting in. 11am tomorrow.”

“Today, Googlers from around the world are gathering at 11 am local time to sit together and show retaliation is #NotOkGoogle,” the organizers said in another tweet.

“The stories we’ve been collecting will be shared, our demands will be read, and all will be in solidarity with those withstanding this chilling practice.”

The sit-in comes a week after the organizers released a letter, accusing the Sundar Pichai-led company of pursuing a “culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities.”

Signed by Meredith Whittaker, Claire Stapleton, and 10 others, the letter goes on to say: “Retaliation isn’t always obvious. It’s often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, or demotions.”

Whittaker is the head of Google’s Open Research Group and the Google Measurement Lab, while Stapleton is the marketing manager at YouTube.

The Mountain View tech giant, however, declined to comment on the sit-in when approached by Tech Crunch and Fox News other than give a standard scripted statement, which said:

“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy. To make sure that no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, and investigate all allegations of retaliation.”

Last year, more than 20,000 Google employees around the world staged a walk-out, following a damaging New York Times report on the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software.

The en-masse walk-out was also a protest against pay inequality and abuse of power to victimize employees that did not tow the company line.

“We were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power,” the #GoogleWalkout organizers told Fox News at the time.

“Sadly, this is part of a longstanding problem, one further amplified by systemic racism. We know this culture well,” the statement said.

Both Whittaker and Stapleton have allegedly been victimized for organizing the #GoogleWalkout, leaving them with no option but to call for the #NotOKGoogle sit-in to protest the injustices meted out to them and others, since.

In fact, last month, Whittaker posted a message to a number of internal Google mailing lists, accusing the company of disbanding its external AI ethics council earlier in the month.

She was allegedly told that she would lose her job if she didn’t “abandon” her role at AI Now Institute and her work on AI ethics.

Stapleton said she was threatened with demotion two months after the walk-out and faced even more retaliation when she brought the matter to the notice of Human Resources.

“My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton wrote

Although the company was forced to conduct an investigation and reverse the demotion decision after she hired a lawyer, the environment remained “hostile.”

“While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day,” she wrote.

Employee protests at Google appear to have become a recurrent feature of late, as there was another protest between the #GoogleWalkout and the #NotOkGoogle that comes to mind.

About a month after the #GoogleWalkOut, an employee backlash over the company’s clandestine ‘Dragonfly’ search engine project in China snowballed into near- unmanageable proportions for the tech giant.

Ever since the company’s secret and highly questionable project in China was exposed in August, the search engine titan had faced fierce criticism from investigative journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, in addition to mounting dissent among its own workforce.

An open letter demanding the immediate scrapping of the controversial tailored-version of Google’s popular search engine for China was published online late last year.

What started off as a 10-signatory letter entitled “We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly,” was later backed by hundreds of signatories, which kept growing as murkier details continued to emerge.

The  letter started with a categorical demand to halt Dragonfly, calling the project “Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.”

“We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months,” read the letter.

“International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project,” it continued. “So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.”

“Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits,” the letter read.

“After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we’re taking a stand.”

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From The Editors Technology

Google Announces $550M Investment in Chinese e-Commerce Giant JD.com

Alphabet’s Google announced Monday that it was investing $550 million cash in Beijing-based Chinese e-commerce company JD.com as part of a strategic partnership.

The investment will fetch Google in excess of 27 million newly issued Class A shares of the Chinese online retailer at $20.29 per share.

It has an equivalent value of $40.58 per ADS (American Depository Share), which is a “negotiable certificate of title to a number of shares in a non-US company which is deposited in an overseas bank.”

The ADS calculation is based on the volume-weighted average trading price over the last 10 trading days.

In a joint statement, the two companies said that the purpose of the tie-up was to “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in regions, including Southeast Asia, the U.S., and Europe.

The decision comes on the heels of Google’s alliance with French online retail company Carrefour SA to sell groceries online in France through the US tech giant’s Google Home and Google Assistant platforms.

“We are excited to partner with JD.com and explore new solutions for retail ecosystems around the world to enable helpful, personalized and frictionless shopping experiences that give consumers the power to shop wherever and however they want,” Google’s Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler said in a statement.

So, the obvious question to ask is what’s in it for the two companies?

As far as JD.com is concerned, the partnership will give its products the visibility it seeks beyond its stronghold in China and Southeast Asia, particularly, in US and European markets, making it easy for consumers to buy them online with the help of the aforementioned Google platforms.

Furthermore, with trade tensions riding high between Beijing and Washington, the timing of the deal couldn’t have been more opportune for the Chinese retailer.

In a recent interview with CNBC, JD.com Founder and CEO Richard Liu said that an extended trade-war between the two superpowers would have “horrible” consequences for numerous American brands, as a growing number of Chinese consumers are getting drawn to overseas products.

“For the next five years, or 10 years, I’m sure in the larger cities, almost half the shopping will come from imported goods,” Liu told the Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based business news network.

Basically, that translates to a big consumer base in China for American manufacturers, “but if it’s a long-term (trade) war, it will be horrible,” Liu told CNBC, going on to say that it would “hurt a lot of American brands.”

For Google, it’s a matter of staying ahead of the competition, specifically Amazon, as well as expanding its horizons, even more, to gain a foothold in the ever-growing Asian markets and have a meaningful presence in voice-enabled e-commerce.

Analysts are of the opinion that not only will the partnership boost Google’s retail designs on Chinese consumers but will also help the company to further consolidate its affiliation with Walmart, allowing the two companies to jointly address the challenges posed by rivals Amazon and Alibaba, in key markets around the globe.

Over the past year, we have seen Google partner with Walmart in a number of areas after the two companies pooled in their resources in August, last year, to sell 100s of 1000s of Walmart goods on Google’s voice-powered platform – Google Assistant.

Again, the move was meant to check the growing dominance of Amazon in the world of voice-enabled shopping.

JD.com’s biggest competition in China’s huge e-commerce market is Jack Ma’s Alibaba, with both the online retail forces investing heavily in technology and logistics – including high-tech retail outlets and drone delivery tests to reach rural China – in a bid to get a bigger piece of the Chinese pie.

Investment banking firm D.A. Davidson & Co’s director of research Gil Luria told CNBC’s “The Rundown” – hosted by Dan Murphy from news channel’s Singapore Exchange – that it was crucial to monitor the two companies in the coming months.

“They’re singularly focused on being a fantastic retailer,” he said at “The Rundown” show.

“They have the advantage on logistics, they have the advantage on quality and they have the alignment with Tencent, which is incredibly important because of the relationship with WeChat,” he added.

Tencent is one of China’s big-time technology giants whose mobile chat service, WeChat – considered to be one of the world’s most powerful apps – has boosted its sustained expansion into mobile services.

With both the company benefiting from their association with the WeChat app, which in China is known as Weixin, they have to explore other avenues for that deciding edge that they seek over each other; Monday’s announcement appears to be a step in that direction, at least as far as JD.com is concerned.

Bloomberg reports that its intelligence analyst Jitendra Waral has said that one of the partnership benefits for Google comes from the fact that JD.com boasts its own fulfillment and logistics network, not much different from Amazon.

Obviously, it translates to a “more scalable infrastructure than that of other China-based e-commerce monoliths such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which focus more on listings,” reported Bloomberg.

“Retail is the biggest advertising area for Google, and the search giant’s spending on e-commerce is likely to increase, Waral said. The partnership with JD.com represents Google’s push to develop a long-term defense strategy against Amazon’s ad-market with two main goals: to retain their strength in retail advertising, and to expand into a bigger addressable market,” reported the New York City-based media company.

“It’s an offensive and defensive play,” Waral said, according to Bloomberg.
The half-a-billion-dollar-plus investment, by the way, is going to be sourced from Google’s operating unit and not from any of the parent company Alphabet’s investment units.

“This partnership with Google opens up a broad range of possibilities to offer a superior retail experience to consumers throughout the world,” JD.com’s chief strategy officer, Jianwen Liao, said in a statement.

Company officials believe that the deal would be a perfect blend of the US tech company’s market reach and strength in analytics with the Chinese e-retailer’s expertise in logistics and inventory management.

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From The Editors Technology

A Sneak Peek into Google’s Next-Gen Pixel Phones – Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3

It appears from a smattering of leaked hands-on images that Google is getting ready to launch the next generation of its flagship smartphone; two of them, actually – the Google Pixel 3 XL and its more modest variant, the Google Pixel 3 – and Verizon is going to be the official carrier in the U.S.

Going by the rumors, there could be a third Pixel phone in the pipeline, as well, but more on that in a bit.

So, starting with the Pixel 3 XL, the front will have an almost edge-to-edge 6.2-inch display, with a rather prominent chin and, of course, the ubiquitous notch, encroaching on the screen real estate, is there for all to see.

While the notch is not going to be as wide as the iPhone X, it looks visibly taller, giving it a kind of a boxy appearance.

The reason why Google has compromised on aesthetics, by including the tall notch, is to accommodate one of the front-firing stereo speakers in that space, with its pair located on the bottom; hence, the huge ugly chin.

The dual front-facing camera setup on the notch is another reason why the notch needs all that extra space.

Rumor has it that the front cameras might include a portrait video selfie mode, too, somewhat like the new focus mode on Instagram; however, don’t read too much into it because it could well turn out to be what it started as – a rumor.

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Moving over to the back of the Pixel 3 XL, well, it’s hardly any different from the Pixel 2 XL, with just a mike hole next to the single camera and the fingerprint reader still holding on to its position on the back, much like its predecessor; this, obviously, means there won’t be any in-screen fingerprint scanner.

Another significant takeaway from the leaked Pixel 3 XL images is its glass back, which could well be an indication that this next-gen flagship could, actually, have wireless charging – something that was not considered on the earlier Pixels, despite the high-demand for it.

Also, it appears that Google has no plans to bring back the 3.5mm headphone jack to the new Pixel, something it did away with on the Pixel 2.

As the leaked front pics of the Pixel 3 XL shows the phone in its bootloader mode, you can see that the phone will continue to have 4GB of RAM, which is kind of ridiculous because, at least, 6GB of RAM should be a given in 2018, particularly on these XL models.

Again, if rumors are anything to go by, Google may be in negotiations with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, this time around, to build its next-gen Pixels; and, yes, it’s the same Foxconn that put together Apple’s iPhones.

However, according to another rumor, originating from WinFutre.de, FIH Mobile could be the company that’s actually manufacturing this year’s Pixels.

As ugly as the phone appears to be, we can rest assured in the knowledge that the new Pixels are going to be rock solid in terms of durability if FIH is really building them; because this is the same company that has been producing HMD’s Nokia-branded smartphones, known for their hardiness.

Also, there is a strong likelihood that Google might unleash a third Pixel phone on unsuspecting fans this year, which could be called Pixel 3 Light.

However, if our information is correct, the mid-range Pixel is being developed for emerging markets and might not be a part of Google’s U.S. scheme of things.

Equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor, this mid-range Pixel variant is likely to have a price point between $400 and $500. By the way, this bit of news also comes from WinFutre.de.

Since the leaked images are of a prototype Pixel 3 XL – evident from the fact that there’s a symbol in place of Google’s well-recognized “G” on the back – there is always the possibility that things might change, somewhat, when the phone is, actually, launched commercially.

However, from what we have experienced with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s LIVE leaks, last year, there might not be any change at all.

All in all, the Pixel 3 XL can be a strong contender for the world’s ugliest phone, what with a big notch and a huge chin, although it’s a given that it’s going to have a high-quality camera and an amazing Android experience.

But, if you’re really looking to avoid the notch, altogether, then the smaller notch-less variant – the Google Pixel 3 – is the one you should go for.

Here’s some more information on the Pixel 3 XL that could be a little different from what we have covered above; so, we can’t really vouch for its absolute authenticity.

  • The Pixel 3 XL will feature a 6.2-inch capacitive, multi-touch touchscreen, with a 1440 x 2880 resolution.
  • It will run on Android v8.0 (Oreo) operating system
  • The device is going to be powered by Octa-core (2.45 GHz, Quad core, Kryo + 1.9 GHz, Quad core, Kryo) CPU
  • It will be equipped with 6GB of RAM; however, according to our information, the Pixel 3 XL will have only 4GB of RAM
  • The phone will have 64 GB of onboard storage
  • The phone will, reportedly, have an Adreno 630 graphics card
  • The 3600 mAh battery will have quick charging
  • The rear-facing camera is going to be a single lens 12-megapixel affair
  • Other sensors on the camera include an accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope, compass, light sensor and proximity sensor.
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From The Editors Technology

Top Take Aways from Google’s I/O Developers’ Conference (2018)

The fact that there was going to be many takeaways from this year’s Google I/O Developers Conference became evident from day one itself when CEO Sindar Pichai kicked things off by acknowledging that the tech industry was ethically liable for the tools and services it brings to its customers.

It set the tone for some of the biggest announcements Google has made in the recent past, what with a Gmail version that will soon write emails for us – all by itself; a brand new Android update that will change the way we use our mobile devices; a Google Assistant with John Legend’s voice, and a plethora of other important revelations.

One thing was clear from the outset, though; directly or indirectly, artificial intelligence was going to be the main theme throughout the conference.

Google’s new mobile operating system, the Android P, does promise some huge improvements and additions, like the new dashboard, for example, that’s capable of showing “how you’re spending time on your service, including time spent on apps, how many times you have unlocked your phone, and how many notifications you have received.”

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With the Android P, you can even limit the time you spend on individual apps in order to control compulsive usage of these platforms.

So, if you think you’re spending more time on, say, Instagram, than you think is necessary, you can restrict yourself to 30 minutes – or whatever you decide is the right amount of time to spend on the app – and as soon as the time limit is up, the icon for that app will gray out.

The upgraded Android P also allows key interactions, like changing apps, for instance, through hand gestures, somewhat along the lines of iPhone X.

Most of these new features of the Android P are part of a new theme that Google chooses to call “Digital Well Being.”

Interactions with Google Assistant will now sound less robotic and more like human-to-human exchanges, with six new voices being added to break the monotony of listening to Holly – a voice that users may have, consciously or subconsciously, become fed up of.

And, of course, John Legend’s voice will be joining the fray sometime later this year, to add some more variety to the voice options.

To demonstrate how the new Assistant will sound and interact, Sundar Pichai played back a recording where Google Assistant is calling a hair salon to set up an appointment.

The conversation between the virtual assistant and the salon employee was so much like an exchange between two humans that the employee could not catch on to the fact that it was a machine at the other end.

One thing is for sure, though; Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo series have some stiff competition coming their way, sooner rather than later, what with Google announcing that the first Assistant-included smart displays will be shipping as early as July this year.

Because of the ongoing feud between the retail juggernaut and the tech giant, Amazon can’t offer several contents that Google Assistant can, one of which is YouTube, as an onstage demo showed when Assistant pulled up Jimmy Kimmel Live on the video streaming channel.

The new-look Gmail mentioned earlier is another big take away from this year’s I/O, which, basically, builds on the email platform’s existing Smart Reply feature.

The new Smart Compose uses artificial intelligence “to help you draft emails from scratch, faster,” says Google.

If it worries you to think that Gmail will create emails without your involvement, you’re thinking a bit ahead of the company because Smart Compose will only make logical suggestions for phrases and even complete sentences based on context and user history, as you type.

While the feature is being made available on the new Gmail for consumers over the next couple of months, G Suite users will have to wait a little longer.

Google Maps will also see a major revamp, with a new “For You” tab allowing users to see restaurants and businesses trending among other users in specific neighborhoods; not only that, it also allows you real-time coordination with friends to “shortlist” restaurants for you.

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If the new Google Maps is as accurate and dependable as the company claims it is, it will make life so much easier for users trying to find their way around in a new city; all you need to do is point your smartphone camera in a certain direction and Google will do the rest.

What it actually does is use artificial intelligence to pair with Street View data to give you interactive guidance through every turn you encounter.

Google Photos is also being endowed with some great new features like the ability to replace the real background of a photo with something else you may like, a black and white backdrop, for example.

Or, when you are browsing through your gallery, Photos will use AI to analyze the pics and make appropriate recommendations to fix issues it identifies in your collection of pics, like, for example, it may suggest you to “fix brightness” of a certain photograph.

Again, AI is the big focus when it comes to Google’s new app. “It uses artificial intelligence to analyze all the content published to the web at any moment, and organize all of those articles, videos, and more into storylines. It spots the ones you might be interested in and puts them in your briefing,” says Google.

The company has also promised “a range of perspectives” in its News app, while an upgraded Google Lens will allow you to aim your smartphone camera at any text in the real world, capture it as an image, and convert that into a text doc by placing it onto a text field on your mobile.

Plus, Google Lens will also be your fashion assistant by helping you make the right purchase decisions when you’re shopping for clothing items online.

So, when you point your camera in direction of a clothing item, the “Style Match” feature scans it and then makes suggestions based on that.

However, Google Lens is found wanting when it comes to precise identification of clothing items but the company is confident of getting as close to perfection as possible in the near future.

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From The Editors Technology

Volvo’s Next-Gen Infotainment Will Integrate Google Assistant, Google Maps and More

Volvo announced Monday that its next-generation Sensus infotainment system will include a host of Google services, including Google Assistant, Google Maps as well as apps available through the Google Play Store.

While all of these integrations are going to be Android-based, you don’t really need to have an Android smartphone, or, for that matter, any smartphone, to be able to use the system.

“Bringing Google services into Volvo cars will accelerate innovation in connectivity and boost our development in applications and connected services,” said Henrik Green – Volvo’s senior VP for research and development.

“Soon, Volvo drivers will have direct access to thousands of in-car apps that make daily life easier and the connected in-car experience more enjoyable.”

The announcement was first made by the two companies at last year’s I/O Developer Conference and confirmed a day ahead of this year’s conference due to start from May 8.

The collaboration between the automaker and the tech giant will see several Google services and apps getting embedded into Volvo’s next-gen Sensus infotainment system in a way that will allow drivers to use the services independently, without the need of a smartphone.

Google Maps will play a key role in the new Volvo’s navigation system, offering users real-time traffic data, map updates as well as proactive route change suggestions – a feature that has already proved its utility on smartphone Google Maps.

The Google Assistant will be as useful an inclusion as any other, providing a central voice interface for future Volvos, which will allow drivers to manipulate in-car functions like air-conditioning, sun-roof and windows, as well as use apps for sending messages and controlling music – all with the help of voice commands.

The Google Play Store will include a plethora of approved downloadable apps with Google’s affirmation that its screening system will ensure that driver distraction is minimal, and that more can be done from the dashboard than ever before.

The current version of Volvo’s Sensus runs on a large portrait-oriented touch-sensitive display integrated into the car’s dashboard, controlling navigation, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning), media as well as allowing access to a limited number of apps.

“The Google partnership to be entered into is an important strategic alliance for Volvo Cars,” said Green.

“The Android platform, Google services and Google’s working relationship with app developers in-house and worldwide will help us further improve the Volvo car experience,” he added.

Volvo will, however, continue to develop its own apps and connected services independent of its partnership with Google.

Google’s Android offers a “turnkey” solution to automakers that can use the automobile-specific operating system just like smartphone manufacturers do.

We got a glimpse of the system’s apparent utility at last year’s I/O, where Google demoed the system on a Maserati.

Not only Volvo, but Audi is also partnering with Google to introduce a similar infotainment system based on Android Nougat 7.0, allowing users access to the same Google Maps, Google Assistant and apps that are found in Android Auto, again, without the need for an Android smartphone.

With the infotainment system not cornering users to use Android devices, more tailored choices can be made available to them to enhance their in-car experience.

Google has also announced a fresh user interface (UI) and new Google Maps features for the Google Auto to make it smarter and more user-oriented.

A new group messaging feature and a Rich Communication System (RCS) are also being introduced to the Android Auto.

Additionally, third-party integration is being upgraded to include integrated search results, and more, in an attempt to enhance the overall Android Auto experience for its users.

Moving back to Volvo’s next-gen Sensus, it’s going to offer a far bigger choice of apps on the Google Play Store than ever before, including thousands of other car-specific apps that can be accessed using the cars’ integrated 4G LTE connectivity.

In an attempt to allay security and hacking concerns, Google is also going to increase the frequency of feature and security updates.

The first batch of next-gen Sensus-equipped Volvo cars will not be rolling out any time soon; in fact, it “will launch in a couple of years from now,” according to the Swedish carmaker.

For now, users will have to make do with the current smartphone version of Sensus, which not only supports Android Auto but Apple CarPlay, as well.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon-Google Hostilities Escalate: Retail Giant to Stop Selling Nest Products

A phone call from Amazon’s retail division informing Nest of its decision not sell the company’s latest line of hardware, such as the Nest Cam IQ and its latest-generation smart thermostat, to name a couple, has played the catalyst in the ongoing feud between the two giants, an insider familiar with the call told Business Insider.

However, the call in question was made late last year when Nest was still an independent Alphabet subsidiary; it was just last month that the company was taken back into the Google scheme of things, having spent three years in the standalone wilderness.

The quality of the Nest products was not the reason behind the decision though, which, according to the Business Insider source, came from the top. As a matter of fact, the concerned Nest hardware had been getting excellent reviews on the Amazon site.

Although no names were mentioned, Nest employees believed that the directive had come from none other than the Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos himself.

Also, Nest employees had prior information about the Amazon move, having been tipped off by its soon-to-be owners Google.

If the Business Insider source is to be believed, the Amazon decision did not go down well with Google, forcing the company to take the extreme decision of not selling Nest products at all on the Amazon platform, henceforth.

While Amazon can continue selling its current inventory, it will not be receiving replenishments from Nest, if the Business Insider report is anything to go by.

This development between the two titans is the latest in a series of an-eye-for-an-eye moves by both, going back some months in time, now.

Early in December last year, Google-owned YouTube announced that it was discontinuing the video-sharing service on Fire TV as well as Echo Show – Amazon’s only smart speaker with a screen.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement at the time.

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon,” he added.

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It wasn’t the first time that Google had withdrawn YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show. In a similar move in September last year, the tech giant had withdrawn the service citing breach of “Terms of Service” on the part of Amazon.

It was the retail behemoth, though, which had first accused Google of discontinuing YouTube without prior intimation, saying that the unannounced move was a source of disappointment for both Google and Amazon customers.

Here’s what Amazon had said in its September 26th statement:

“Google made a change today around 3 pm. YouTube used to be available to our shared customers on Echo Show. As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

However, in a statement given to THE VERGE at the time, Google had countered Amazon’s claim, saying that the way the retail company had implemented YouTube on its Echo Show was in violation of the “Terms of Service”

“We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”

About a fortnight prior to the December withdrawal of the service, YouTube had returned to Echo Show – an indication that differences between the two companies had been ironed out and that Amazon was in compliance with Google’s conditions.

An Amazon representative had confirmed the reinstatement, saying that in addition to the Google service, the company was also providing other sources of video content to its Echo Show users.

“We’re excited to offer customers the capability to watch even more video content from sources such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Dailymotion on Echo Show. More video sources will be added over time.”

However, Google accused Amazon of overlaying voice controls on top of the service which, according to Google, was a Terms of Service breach on the part of Amazon.

From Google’s December announcement that it was not only taking away YouTube from the Echo Show again but was also discontinuing the service from Amazon Fire TV as well, it became glaringly obvious that there was more to the feud than met the eye.

In order to promote its own products such as Echo Show and Fire TV, Amazon has been known to discourage similar competitor products on its online site.

It stopped selling Google products like Chromecast and Google Home in addition to other company products including the Apple TV and LINE smart speakers. Also, it doesn’t provide Prime Video to Google Cast users.

While Amazon was happy to sell Nest devices earlier, promoting them with catchphrases like “working with Alexa” and calling the Nest Thermostat “Amazon’s Choice,” its sudden decision to remove them from its online retail outlet appeared to have been an attempt to pressurize Google into easing up on its YouTube “Terms of Service.”

The growing feud does not seem to be benefiting either of the two companies, in that both their customers are being deprived.

While Amazon Echo Show users are missing out on one of the most popular video-sharing sites in the world, Google customers will not be able to buy its products like the Google Home, Chromecast and Nest devices on the world’s biggest retail website.

The sooner the two companies resolve their disagreements the better for them as well as their customers.

As of now, it’s the customers on both sides who are actually losing out. As they say, when two elephants engage in a fight, it’s the ground they fight on that suffers the most.

Categories
From The Editors

Google’s Friday Doodle Celebrates 127th Birthday of Legendary Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield 

Friday’s Google Doodle commemorates the 127th birth anniversary of Wilder Penfield – the illustrious neurosurgeon who is best remembered for developing the groundbreaking ‘Montreal Procedure’ for the treatment of epilepsy.

While working at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University in the 1930s, Penfield came across an epileptic who complained about smelling burned toast just before she got her seizures.

This gave him the idea that identifying the part of the brain where the hallucinatory smell originated would be the key to treating the condition effectively.

He then operated upon the woman, while she was under local anesthesia and very much conscious, using electrodes to first stimulate parts of her brain asking her what she felt as he went along.

When the woman said she smelled burned toast, Penfield knew he had found the part responsible for her seizures and went on to remove a small portion of tissue from the offending spot. And, just like that, the woman was cured.

Not only did Penfield make significant advances in the treatment of epilepsy, his groundbreaking research also made major contributions towards understanding neurological processes that caused hallucinations, illusions and déjà vu.

Once called “the greatest living Canadian,” for his contributions to neuroscience, Penfield is credited with putting Canada on the global map, in so far as healthcare and science are concerned.

Born in Spokane, Washington, on January 26, 1891, Penfield grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin.

He graduated from Princeton University in 1913 and after a brief stint as the university’s football coach, he joined the Merton College in Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, in 1915.

In 1917, he married Helen Kermott and joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

After getting his medical degree in 1918, he served briefly at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital as a house surgeon, returning to Merton in 1919 to spend two more years completing his studies.

Before relocating to Montreal, Canada, in 1928, Penfield worked at the Neurological Institute of New York where he devoted his time to solo epilepsy surgeries.

Penfield began teaching at the McGill University and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, going on to become the city’s first neurosurgeon.

In 1934, two things happened; he became a naturalized Canadian citizen and also got the directorship of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at the McGill University, which he founded together with Dr. William Cone.

While Penfield was not able to save his sister Ruth, who succumbed to brain cancer, he did manage to delay the inevitable, by years, through complex surgery.

In 1950, Penfield was elected the Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in the New Year’s Honors List of 1953, he was appointed to the Order of the Merit.

His contributions to surgical science were honored with the Lister Medal in 1960, the year he retired, and in 1967, he was made the Companion of the Order of Canada.

Penfield spent his later years, in public service, promoting university education. He co-founded the Vanier Institute of the Family “to promote and guide education in the home – man’s first classroom.”

Penfield was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1994, eighteen years after he died of abdominal cancer at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, aged 85. He is buried at the Penfield Family Cemetery in Austin, Manitoba.

Some of the other honors he was recognized with

  • In 1943, Penfield was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
  • An avenue on the slope of Mount Royal in Montreal was named ‘Avenue du Docteur-Penfield’ in his honor in 1978.
  • The Canadian government designated Penfield a ‘National Historic Person’ in 1988.
  • In 1991, Canada Post released a postage stamp honoring the distinguished surgeon.
  • One of the ten buildings of John Abbot College is called the ‘Penfield Building’ in his honor.
  • The Penfield Children’s Center in Milwaukee is also named in his honor.

These are just a few of the honors and accolades bestowed upon the great man during his life as well as posthumously.

Categories
From The Editors Technology

Google Unleashes Cache of New Hardware at Pixel 2 Event, Including the Game-Changing Smart Earbuds

Google’s Pixel 2 Event at the San Francisco Jazz Center on Wednesday was everything that one expects from such product launches, and perhaps more, with a couple of new products that promise to change the world, so to speak.

The live-streamed event kicked-off with Google CEO Sundar Pichai taking the stage with three giant screens behind him.

As was expected, he began by remembering the Sunday night Vegas shooting and the recent hurricanes that left a swathe of devastation in its wake across Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. He said that Google was “working to do our part.”

He spoke about the company’s transitional endeavors from a mobile world to an “AI world,” citing a recent effort in Lagos, Nigeria, where the company successfully mapped out 5000 kilometers of road in the city with the help of machine learning – all this in just a few months.

Pichai then mentioned about a similar attempt in San Francisco where Google is looking to solve parking woes by using machine learning to identify available parking in the city.

He said that machine learning helps ‘Google Translate’ process 2 billion translations every single day.

“It’s not just about applying machine learning in our products; it’s about radically rethinking how computing works.”

Speaking about the key components in an AI-first scenario he said, “In an AI first world, computers should adapt to how people live their lives, rather than people adapting their behavior.”

All in all, Pichai’s keynote address revolved around the company’s focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence – an “AI world,” which is conversational and sensory; ambient enough for multiple-device-adaptability; and which is also contextual and situational.

“We are very confident about our approach here because we are at the forefront of the shift to AI,” he said.

Suddenly, it was hardware time; time for the Google hardware team to take over and unveil the new range of Google products – the main purpose of the event, really!

But, before that, a word from Google hardware head, Rick Osterloh. He stressed upon the importance of AI and software, combining to improve hardware. He said that big strides forward for devices call for the successful merging of AI, software, and hardware, promising that the next generation of Google devices is “radically helpful.”

Here’s a sketch of the Google devices launched at the event after a decent, if not impressive, opening.

Google Home Mini

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Isabelle Olsson, team lead of Home hardware, presented the Home Mini smart speaker, Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Dot. However, there is a key difference, in that the Home Mini has a classy fabric finish, allowing it blend in with the user’s home.

“You can make it your sous-chef in the kitchen, your white noise machine in the nursery, your voice remote for your TV in the living room, or your alarm clock in the bedroom, or all of the above,” Olsson said.

Here are the key points covered by Olsson in her presentation of the Home Mini – “the newest member of the Google’s Home family.”

  • Striking simplicity in its circular design – sleek, smooth, with no corners or edges
  • Almost entirely covered by fabric
  • 4 LED lights, under the fabric, light up to indicate that “it hears you, or it’s thinking”
  • Can be controlled by touch – a quick tap will allow you to “pause your music, adjust the volume or talk to your assistant.”
  • Mini’s circular shape allows 360° projection of really “crisp” sound regardless of your position in the room.
  • Can be easily connected to any Chromecast built-in speaker wirelessly
  • Available in 3 beautiful colors – coral, chalk, and charcoal
  • Retail price of $49 in the U.S.
  • Available to pre-order online with immediate effect
  • Will be available with major retailers starting October 19

Additional family features will be rolled out later in the month on all Home devices, informed Rishi Chandra

Google Home Max

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Rishi Chandra, Google’s Director Product Management, unveiled the Google Home Max, which is, he claimed, “the biggest and best sound in Google Home ever.”

Here’s a rundown of the key features discussed by Chandra.

  • Two 4.5” woofers with 22 mm of excursion – “an extremely high range for this size,” says Chandra
  • Packs 20 times the power of Google Home – “Max can play loud, really loud.”
  • Adaptable to different acoustic conditions using Smart Sound – “a new audio experience powered by Google’s AI”
  • Supports Cast, Bluetooth, and Stereo Aux Input
  • Built-in Google Assistant
  • Can hear voice commands even when the music is at full volume, using unique microphone placement and Google’s neural beam-forming technology
  • Can be placed vertically or horizontally – “it’s base magnetically pops into place” without the need of rubber feet
  • Will be available effective December at $399
  • Will be available in two colors – chalk and charcoal
  • Free 12-month subscription to YouTube Red

Google Pixelbook

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It was then time for the Google Pixelbook and on came Matt Vokoun, Director Product Management, to talk about it.

Here’s the take from what he said.

  • With a thickness, or should we say thinness, of 10 mm and weighing just 1 kg, the Pixelbook is the “thinnest, lightest laptop Google has ever made”
  • Pixelbook’s 13.3” touch-screen display is “gorgeously high resolution, with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and enough brightness to use outside, even on a sunny day
  • Extremely thin keyboard with soft-touch keys and backlit design
    Intel® Core™ I5 and I7 processors
  • Up to 16 Gigs of RAM and 512 GB storage
  • Long lasting battery allows up to10 hours of usage time on a single charge
  • Up to two hours of use on a 15-minute charge
  • Pixelbook charger can be used with Pixel smartphone and vice versa
  • Automatically connects to the net through your Pixel smartphone in the absence of WiFi – Google calls it “instant tethering”
  • First laptop with built-in Google Assistant accessible with the press of a button on the smart keyboard allowing you to type in your request.
  • When using the Pixelbook as Tab you can show the Google Assistant what you really need help with on the screen, with the help of the Pixelbook Pen. All you need to do is use the pen to circle an image or text on the screen and the Assistant will respond by giving you more information on the circled item. Additionally, the pen can be used to write or draw on your screen, should you feel the need. It is the fastest, most responsive stylus experience.
  • Fully supports Google Play, making smartphone apps available on the Pixelbook
  • Pixelbook price starts at $999 while the Pixelbook Pen is priced at $99
  • Both will be available in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. on the Google Store and over 1000 retail locations including Best Buy
  • Pre-order is already in effect
  • Will be available in stores starting October 31

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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Next, it was Google’s Mario Queiroz’s turn to present the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

  • Available in 2 sizes, the 5” Pixel 2 and the 6” Pixel 2 XL
  • Front facing stereo speakers are “precision tuned to deliver the perfect balance of volume, clarity, and frequency response.”
  • Included adapter allows you to use it with your existing analog headphone
  • The smaller Pixel 2 comes with a full HD OLED display
  • Queiroz described the available color choices as – “kinda blue,” “just black,” and “clearly white,” drawing laughter from the audience.
  • The 6” Pixel 2 XL incorporates P-OLED display technology with “elegantly curved” glass to “bring the display to the edges for a full-screen immersive viewing experience”
  • Both phones have optimized displays for Virtual Reality
  • The Pixel 2 XL comes in 2 colors, “just black” and the “stylishly simple black and white.”
  • Same grade experience on both sizes – “We don’t set aside better features for the larger device,” Queiroz said.
  • “Both the models are IP67 water and dust resistant and have an all-day battery that charges super-fast” – you are good for seven hours with a 15-minute charge.
  • Faster and easier access to Google Assistant with a new feature called Active Edge. All you need to do is “give a quick squeeze where your hand naturally holds the phone and ask for whatever you need.”
  • 12 MP, F1.8 aperture rear camera with optical image stabilization and increased dynamic range and improved texture and sharpness
  • Allows portrait mode with both front and rear cameras
  • Video stabilization enables shake-free videos
  • Will allow you to transfer all your stuff from your old phone to the Pixel 2 in less than 10 minutes
  • Pixel 2 starts at $649 for the 64-GB version
  • Pixel 2 XL starts at $849
  • Both phones will be available in 6 countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S.
  • Pre-order starting immediately
  • Free Google Home Mini with both phones for a limited period in all of the aforementioned countries, except India.

Google Day Dream View

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Google’s Justin Payne takes over to present the newly updated Google Day Dream View, Google’s Virtual Reality headset. It encompasses everything from last year’s version that people loved – making it “even better.”

Main features

  • New colors and upgraded lenses and fabric, giving the headset “the widest field view yet and it’s super light and comfortable.”
  • Allows you to “cast the experiences to the TV” allowing your “friends and family to see what you are seeing.”
  • Payne claims it is the best VR headset in the market
  • Available for $99

Google Pixel Buds

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Justin Payne then went to talk Google Pixel Buds. “A smart, new audio accessory that works perfectly with Pixel 2,” is how he described Pixel Buds.

Salient features

  • Designed for great sound delivering “clear highs’ and “deep base”
  • Super easy music control by simply tapping to start/stop music or swiping forward or backward to change volume
  • Pairing the Pixel Buds with the Pixel 2 gives you instant access to Google Assistant. All you need to do is touch and hold the Bud and ask the Assistant to play music, send a text message, or give walking directions while your phone stays in your pocket all the while
    Alerts you to new notifications and even reads out your messages for you.
  • Allows real-time translation with the help of Google Translate, powered by machine learning. “It’s like having a personal translator by your side,” says Payne.
  • Capable of translating 40 languages
  • The Pixel Buds come in a pocket-sized charging case providing five hours of listening time on a single charge
  • The case holds multiple-charges allowing up to 24 hours of listening time
  • Available in “kinda blue,” “just black,” and “clearly white”
  • Will be available in November for $59 with pre-order already in effect

Google Clips

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The last, but not the least by a long shot, was the unveiling of the Google Clips – “an entirely new type of camera that works with your Pixel,” Payne explained. He said that the first edition was designed with parents and pet owners in mind allowing you to “capture those spontaneous smiles, first steps, and first tricks.”

Distinguishing features

  • Clips is equipped with a high-performance lens, a powerful image sensor, and a shutter button
  • It is small enough to be tossed into your pocket
  • It’s a hands-free camera, which s serves more as a personal photographer than a camera
  • Can be attached to almost anything or just put down anywhere you’d like the image perspective from
  • It resembles a camera and has an indicator light allowing everyone to know what it is – so, no one can accuse you of shooting with a hidden camera
  • All the machine learning happens independently on the device itself
    It captures little snippets which can be saved as a motion photo or a high resolution still
  • Will be available soon for $249
Categories
From The Editors Technology

Google Launches New HD Video Conferencing Platform “Meet” for Enterprises

Google has made another smart addition, “Meet by Google Hangouts,” to its G Suite assortment of business apps which includes Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, Calendar, and Docs.

With the addition of the new web and mobile app, Google now offers an HD video conferencing option for businesses allowing 30 participants at a time as compared to the maximum of 10 partakers that “Hangouts” allows.

The product page (https://gsuite.google.com/products/meet) mentioned in the app’s description page on the App Store is not yet live and is showing error code 404.

However, the URL https://meet.google.com/ is live and running to an extent. It appears to be more or less like the landing page of Hangouts, though, without the phone call or the text chat options. But it does allow you to join a meeting by entering a meeting code and see the meetings you have already scheduled. As of now, there does not seem to be an option for placing a call from the site.

Seemingly, for now, the website can only be accessed from Google’s Chrome Browser. It denies access through Internet Explorer or Safari asking users to download Chrome.

There is limited information available on the app as Google is yet to announce its launch officially. However, some of its features available as of now are listed below.

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Thirty participants at a time – While “Hangouts” is limited to just ten people, “Meet” claims to support up to thirty participants at a time in high-definition video meetings, apparently, making it useful for businesses where meetings requiring more than ten members is a
commonplace.

Meeting on the go – The app makes it easy for participants to join a meeting, even while on the move, with features such as links allowing you to participate in a video meeting with just a click, dial-in numbers for traveling participants, and integrated Gmail and Calendar for G Suite users.

User-friendly main screen – The user’s list of scheduled meetings can be viewed on the main screen of the app with details like date, time, location, participants, and subject, to name a few. It also has a green “Join” button which allows you to join a meeting by opening up the video meeting user interface.

Handy video meeting interface – In large meetings, the main screen appears on the top showing who is addressing the conference with a list of participants’ screens, names and emails below.

Options of muting a call or switching off video mode are also available.

Reportedly, “Meet” also comes with an iOS app which has been taken down by Google for the time being. Also, there is no mention of an Android app yet.

While Google has been up there with Hangouts as far as the consumer side of video chat and conferencing are concerned, it had to come up with something to appeal to the business and corporate audience and it seems to have done just that with “Meet.”

According to some sources, the app is integrated with G Suite allowing people to join meetings from Gmail and Google Calendar as well. Additionally, it is reported to support users from multiple organizations making it possible to include business partners, vendors, and the likes in video meetings.

For more information on “Meet by Google,” we will have to wait for Google to make it official – which will, perhaps, be at Google’s major business conference to be held next week in San Francisco. The Google Cloud Next website has listed a number of sessions in the upcoming meet which seem to focus on team communication, including one called “The future of team communications,” which talks about attendees learning about “the latest additions to G Suite in the area of team communications.”