$600 Chromebooks are a dangerous development for Microsoft | Ars Technica

Lenovo reps told us that its new Chromebook was developed because the company was seeing demand for Chromebooks from users with a bit more disposable income. For example, new college students that had used Chrome OS at high school and families who wanted the robustness Chrome OS offers are looking for machines that are more attractive, use better materials, and are a bit faster and more powerful. The $600 machines fit that role.

And that’s why Microsoft should be concerned. This demand shows a few things. Perhaps most significantly of all, it shows that Chrome OS’s mix of Web applications, possibly extended with Android applications, is good enough for a growing slice of home and education users. Windows still has the application advantage overall, but the relevance of these applications is diminishing as Web applications continue to improve. A browser and the Web are sufficient to handle the needs of a great many users. No Windows necessary, not even to run the browser.

via $600 Chromebooks are a dangerous development for Microsoft | Ars Technica

Agreed. It should worry Microsoft (and Apple too). Google targeting the education market with Chromebooks, means the impression that you need Windows to get work done is never established. The web can handle most tasks.

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A New Era of Frankensoftware Is Upon Us | WIRED

… Big-name device makers are looking closely at the technologies running on their most successful hardware offerings and finding ways to incorporate that magic into the rest of their products. The shift is driven partly by the popularity of mobile apps and touchscreens, industry insiders say, but also by emerging technologies like voice assistants.

via A New Era of Frankensoftware Is Upon Us | WIRED

The Wired article covers more of a voice assistant, multi-platform, multi-experience slant.

Desktop OS Reshuffle

Personally, I find it interesting that this platform shuffle is going on in desktop OS right now:

  • Windows 10 adding PWAs – Windows already bridged desktop and mobile. The web is joining in.
  • Mac OS bringing iOS app and PWA support – web and mobile joining a desktop environment.
  • Chrome OS adding Android apps  – Web based OS getting mobile native apps, with linux desktop support incoming also.

Whats pleasing to me is the web is taking a more seamless role to all the desktop OSes. Web and native apps are merging and co-mingling.

I’m sure there will be some missteps in how this multiplatform existence merges under a desktop OS.

But from now on, most every connected thing you buy is going to have a little bit of something else in it. And once the companies making those things figure out a way to make these interactions effortless, it won’t seem like such a bad thing.

Instilling the notion in users, of tasks = apps, means that apps can be recombined under any platform and experience you like. Apps will remain constant no matter what the OS, how they interact will be crucial.

Its Google On The Line

The crowd was shocked, but the most impressive thing about the call was that the person on the other end didn’t seem to suspect they were talking to AI at all. This is a huge technological achievement for Google, but it also opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and social challenges.

For example, does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our trust in what we see and hear? And is this another example of tech privilege, where those in the know can offload the boring conversations they don’t want to have onto a machine, while those receiving the calls (most likely low-paid service workers) have to deal with some idiot robot?

via Google’s AI sounds like a human on the phone — should we be worried? – The Verge

It is pretty incredible to watch. Probably seals the fate of the telephone too, to humans anyway. Just going to be robots calling robots in future.

Android’s trust problem isn’t getting better – The Verge

The gap between Android and its nemesis, Apple’s iOS, has always boiled down to trust. Unlike Google, Apple doesn’t make its money by tracking the behavior of its users, and unlike the vast and varied Android ecosystem, there are only ever a couple of iPhone models, each of which is updated with regularity and over a long period of time. Owning an iPhone, you can be confident that you’re among Apple’s priority users (even if Apple faces its own cohort of critics accusing it of planned obsolescence), whereas with an Android device, as evidenced today, you can’t even be sure that the security bulletins and updates you’re getting are truthful.

via Android’s trust problem isn’t getting better – The Verge

Every time I have considered an Android device I get another reminder that the ecosystem is at odds with good and ongoing security.

The recent initiatives to get more of the update process out of the control of manufacturers is a good step. But the manufacturers are at odds with updates, they want to sell you a new device, so there will always be this clash.

Android is slowly getting there, but not to the point where I would gladly throw all my data into an Android device just yet and believe that my phone would remain secure and updated.

The Two Faces of AMP

So, to recap, the web community has stated over and over again that we’re not comfortable with Google incentivizing the use of AMP with search engine carrots. In response, Google has provided yet another search engine carrot for AMP.

This wouldn’t bother me if AMP was open about what it is: a tool for folks to optimize their search engine placement. But of course, that’s not the claim. The claim is that AMP is “for the open web.” There are a lot of good folks working on AMP. I’ve met and talked with many of them numerous times and they’re doing amazing technical work. But the way the project is being positioned right now is disingenuous.

If AMP is truly for the open web, de-couple it from Google search entirely. It has no business there.

via The Two Faces of AMP – TimKadlec.com

AMP letter

We are a community of individuals who have a significant interest in the development and health of the World Wide Web (“the Web”), and we are deeply concerned about Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”), a Google project that purportedly seeks to improve the user experience of the Web.

In fact, AMP keeps users within Google’s domain and diverts traffic away from other websites for the benefit of Google. At a scale of billions of users, this has the effect of further reinforcing Google’s dominance of the Web.

Read the full letter at ampletter.org (via Hacker News)

Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 – The Verge

Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of “works best with Chrome” messages we’re starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10’s default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Some also block Firefox with messages to download Chrome.

Hangouts, Inbox, and AdWords 3 were all in the same boat when they first debuted. It’s led to one developer at Microsoft to describe Google’s behavior as a strategic pattern. “When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy,” says Kyle Pflug, a senior program manager on Microsoft Edge.

via Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 – The Verge

Pretty thorough look back on browser battles and web standards that lead us to this point of history now repeating.

Amazon Vs. Google

Amazon has just responded to Google’s decision to remove YouTube from all Fire TV products and the Echo Show. “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website,” a spokesperson told The Verge by email. “We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.” YouTube is being pulled from the Show effective immediately, and Fire TV owners will lose out on the popular, essential video streaming app on January 1st.

Google says it’s taking this extreme step because of Amazon’s recent delisting of new Nest products (like Nest Secure and the E Thermostat) and the company’s long-running refusal to sell Chromecast or support Google Cast in any capacity.

But regardless of the public stance each company takes over the next few days, it’s their mutual customers who are unfairly getting jerked around. YouTube is a cornerstone of any living room streaming device, and for Google to suddenly decide to strip it from millions of existing Fire TV owners — assuming no agreement is reached by January 1st — is shameful. YouTube is video on the internet. Period. It’s also home to beloved creators, and Google’s decision will soon rob them of viewers.

Putting aside who started it. Its odd that I feel Amazon should be able to decide to stock or not stock products, even if in this case, its to push their own products with no competition.

Conversely I feel like Google/YouTube shouldn’t be able to decide that of a website. Its displaying the web, YouTube is online to devices that can connect to web. Withdrawing the FireTV app, OK, fine. Shutting off a specific device which is now just displaying the YouTube site in a browser webview is just moving the goalposts.

It’s a foretelling scenario of the breakdown of net neutrality. These nonsensical battles will play out with people in the middle, over money.

via Google and Amazon are punishing their own customers in a bitter feud – The Verge

Google and the Resurgence of Italian Design

Once upon a time, we had products that were colorful, in shapes that were quirky, whimsical, and expressive. Interesting! And then, almost every tech product became white, silver, gray, black, flat, square, round, and minimalist. Boring.
But there are hints that this is changing. And one of the leaders of this change is, somewhat improbably, Google.

I really like the understated-playful dash of colour on the new Pixel 2 phones.

via Google and the Resurgence of Italian Design – prototypr

Browser Makers Collaborate On Web Docs

Today, Mozilla is announcing a plan that grows collaboration with Microsoft, Google, and other industry leaders on MDN Web Docs. The goal is to consolidate information about web development for multiple browsers – not just Firefox. To support this collaboration, we’re forming a Product Advisory Board that will formalize existing relationships and guide our progress in the years to come.

Why are we doing this? To make web development just a little easier.

Really pleased that there will be one definitive set of documentation and browser compatibility charts. It was a waste of effort that can be put towards improving the respective browsers instead.

via Mozilla brings Microsoft, Google, the W3C, Samsung together to create cross-browser documentation on MDN – The Mozilla Blog