Google has been in news for past 48 hours. Some good some bad. Let’s take a look at all of them.
1. Employees Protesting against China Launch
Google backed out of China in 2010 in lieu of censorship requirements from the government. But that was Larry Page. Google is now run by Sundar Pichai. And he definitely thinks differently about the issue. News started to surface a while back that Google is working on a modified (read censored) version of its popular search engine in China. The employees, however, are not happy about it and no more than 1400 of them have signed a petition on the internal communication system of the company to not do this, according to New York Times.
The issue is both moral and ethical, according to these employees. Google’s brand is built on openness. It has prided itself on gathering and opening up the knowledge of the entire world to everyone on the Internet. A censored Internet goes against the very DNA of the company, protesting employees believe. Will this be enough for Pichai and team to stop making inroads into China? You can’t say for sure. Keep in mind though Google employees did vetoed the project with Pentagon in May this year involving using Google’s AI prowess to improve weaponry.
2. Clarification on Location Data Storage
Let’s get the bad stuff out first. Three days ago Associated Press found out that even if you turn off the location data history, Google still stores the location data. For example, if you are using Android and you turn off the location data but you still use services like maps, there is a strong chance that you turning off the location data wasn’t completely off after all. Google was still storing that data.
The clarification does not change anything in how Google approaches this. It remains the same. But Google has changed the description on their help page to make users aware of the fact. While that’s a good start, the complicated way Google is handling this is creepy at best.
3. An Echo Show Competitor before Holiday Season
Smart speakers are the next big thing. So they say. It turns out users are not completely OK with just speaking and listening. They prefer some eye contact as well. That is probably the reason, Amazon has Echo Show. It’s an Echo device with a display. Google is working on a similar device right now as well.
While it feels obvious why Google would like to do that. The nature of both companies imply different use cases for seemingly similar devices. Amazon being an eCommerce company wanted you to use Echo Show to see what fits you well and decide what items to buy depending on what Alexa suggests you. The new Google device obviously won’t have any such obligation. So it will just be happy to make you see cat videos from YouTube first thing in the morning, display calendars and show you routes to your office or home.
On a related note, Canalys, a UK based market research company reports that Alibaba and Xiaomi showed the most growth in Voice based devices past quarter. While Amazon (62% market share) and Google (32% market share) still lead, the competition is getting tougher.
4. Native Hearing Aid Support coming soon
According to World Health Organization (WHO), 466 million people have trouble hearing properly. Most of the hearing devices on the market share the traits with bluetooth headsets. Google is working on a software update in Android to make these hearing aid devices to also stream audio from Android devices.
A new specification aptly named as Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) will be used to make this happen. The specification will be available to all Hearing Aid makers. And it’s designed in a way to least affect the battery performance. People using these devices will be able to monitor the battery status via Android phones as well.
5. And a big first Retail Store
Speaking of audio speakers and hearing aids, it seems like Google is having a hard time selling its hardware devices. According to Digiday, it is now planning to open up its first retail store much to the tunes of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung etc. Google has always prided in its ability to sell products without any human assistance. It famously rejected the idea of having customer support division.
Hardware, of course, is different. And despite Pixel being the closest thing to an iPhone like experience on an Android device, the sales have been mediocre at best. Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi are capturing most of the market inside and outside of US. Google sees the retail stores designed to accentuate the Pixels and Google Home as a potential remedy.
The first store will be a two-story 14,000 square feet building near the Google’s Chicago headquarters.
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