Justice Department Approves Google ITA Acquisition

Google’s ITA acquisition came under close scrutiny as it meant an end of businesses based on airlines tickets and travels. The acquisition was put on hold until Google agreed to act fairly with the competition.
The deal is still on hold as it needs to be approved by the courts but things look really good in the $700 million acquisition, now that the DOJ has given it a go. However, the condition laid out by the DOJ is,

The Department of Justice’s proposed remedy promotes robust competition for airfare websites by ensuring those websites will continue to have access to ITA’s pricing and shopping software. The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers.

Google has clearly announced that all current ITA contracts will remain intact and can be extended till 2016. With ITA, it will be much easier to search for flight schedules and ticket prices right into Google search. This provides a simplistic approach to flight search that was dominated by travel websites earlier.

Google has concluded its announcement with,

We’re moving to close this acquisition as soon as possible, and then we’ll start the important work of bringing our teams and products together. We’re confident that by combining ITA’s expertise with Google’s technology we’ll be able to develop exciting new flight search tools for all our users. Up, up and away!

Clearly, Google has taken a plunge into airlines information services, and with this magnitude of competition, we can expect to see more innovation in this sector.
(Image source)

Google’s New Music Player For Android Leaked!

Back in December, last year the Android 3.0 Honeycomb music player APK file leaked on to the Internet.

It was the same music player which Google had previewed at the Google I/O in 2010. The last APK of the music player that leaked was pretty buggy and slow.

However, TechFrom10 somehow managed to get access to the test’ version of Android Market, and was able to download the latest version of the upcoming Music Player from Google. He was also able to download some other goodies like a Camera app, Desk Clock and the 3D Gallery app.


The new version of Android 3.0 Honeycomb music player is much better, both in terms of performance and stability. The UI has also been tweaked by Google, and the app looks simply gorgeous in landscape mode. As mentioned earlier, the app also supports music streaming using your Google Account and syncing via W-Fi.

Sadly, the Desk Clock, Camera and the 3D Gallery app will just refuse to start on any of the Android phones I tried. Nevertheless, users can download the latest version of Music player from here.


Google Removes Grooveshark from the Android Market Due to Alleged Copyright Violations

In a rare move, Google has pulled the popular music streaming app Grooveshark from the Android Market. It seems that the move was triggered by complaints from music labels. Grooveshark allows users all over the world to stream songs from its huge music library, listen to online radio stations, and even upload one’s personal music collection.

Grooveshark Like most startups dealing with the entertainment industry, Grooveshark has had its fair share of legal troubles. EMI was the first to sue Grooveshark, but in less than six months, it dropped the lawsuit and reached a revenue sharing deal. Soon after, Grooveshark was sued by Universal Music Group. That lawsuit is still pending.

“We remove apps from Android Market that violate our terms of service”, is all that Google seems to be willing to say for now. What makes this decision particularly interesting is its timing. Universal sued Grooveshark in January 2010, and Apple kicked it out of the iOS App Store in August. What made Google act now? What changed?

There are a couple of things going on that might or might not be related. For one, Google is scheduled to outline its anti-piracy efforts before the House of Representatives’ Judiciary committee today. IN the recent past, it has come under fire for not doing enough to prevent copyright infringements. Secondly, Google is currently developing its own music app that will compete with Grooveshark. Earlier today, we got a glimpse of the cloud-based music app for Android in the form of a leak.

Grooveshark is a freemium service, which manages to stay afloat by offering certain features only to subscribers. Perhaps the most significant of those features was the ability to stream music on mobile devices. However, it seems to be running out of mobile platforms. Android users can still download Grooveshark from many of the third-party app stores, and iOS users who have jailbroken their devices can get it from Cydia. However, the removal from the official app repositories of two of the biggest mobile platforms is undoubtedly a big blow.

Update: Grooveshark reacts to getting booted from the Android Market.

Happy Hour Over for Carriers and Manufacturers as Google Attempts to Control Android Fragmentation

The openness of Android is both its biggest asset, and its biggest headache. On one hand the open nature has allowed a wide range of apps to flourish, while on the other, it has been exploited to spread malware. The open nature has enabled manufacturers to add to the Android experience through custom shells like HTC Sense, but it has also led to a fragmented ecosystem.

AndroidUnlike Apple (iOS) and Microsoft (Windows Phone 7), Google has almost no say on when Android version updates are rolled out to users. We have seen manufacturers like Dell and Sony Ericsson launching high-end handsets with Android versions that were more than a year old. We have seen carriers like AT&T indefinitely delaying updates that have already been pushed out by the manufacturer. Worse still, carriers and manufacturers often claim that all this is done in your best interest! However, things are about to change.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, Google will be providing early-access to Android code only to those manufactures who get their plans approved by none other than Andy Rubin. Google has also begun demanding that Android licensees abide by “non-fragmentation clauses” that allow Google to control what partners can do with Android code. Although these clauses have been included in Android’s license for a long time, it’s only recently that Google begun flexing its muscles.

As much as I relish the open nature of the Android eco-system, there needs to be some quality control mechanism in place. Carriers and manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with preposterous delays. They shouldn’t be allowed to cripple Android by limiting features or installing crapware. When Android was initially announced, Google was dependent on the carriers and manufactures for its success. Now, it is in a position where it can exert its control for the benefit of the ecosystem. Let’s hope that this year will finally see Google stepping up and preventing the openness of Android being misused.

Google’s Gmail Motion April Fools’ Day Joke Turned Into Reality with Kinect

As we are aware, Google loves itself some April Fools gags. The more memorable pranks from Google include the likes of Pigeon Rank, Google Gulp, Gmail Paper, Google Topeka, CADIE, and Animal Translator. This year, the Gmail team announced the launch of Gmail Motion – a cutting edge technology that can use your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into actions for controlling Gmail.

To be honest, this wasn’t exactly a fresh idea. Opera Software had pulled off a similar trick a couple of years back with Face Gestures. In fact, noting the similarity between Face Gestures and Gmail Motion, Choose Opera joined in on the fun.

“For us, Google’s latest innovation was just an April Fools joke a few years back, so we are really impressed with them actually taking this to the market. We called our invention “Face Gestures”, but “Motion” is probably a better name for a product that is not only a joke”, says Jan Standal, the boss of Desktop Products here at Opera.
When Aleksander, our Face Gestures model, was asked about his opinion on Google Motion turning the kinesthetic technology into reality, his eyes welled with tears of joy and said: “I knew this day would come.”

Of course, both Opera and Google were just being being playful. However, the joke is now on Google. A few enterprising folks have turned Google’s April Fools’ joke into reality using Microsoft’s technology. In less than a day, the FAAST crew that brought us the WoW (World of Warcraft) keyboard emulator has cooked up a real-world Gmail Motion application for Kinect.

FAAST is calling their software SLOOW or Software Library Optimizing Obligatory Waving. Check out the video embedded below to see the salient features of Gmail Motion like opening an envelope to compose mail, and licking the stamp to send mail in action.

Amazon To Release An Android Handset With Solar Charging And Mirasol Display!

Amazon recently launched its own AppStore to compete with Google’s own Android Market. Even though Amazon’s AppStore is available only for people based in the U.S, it has been pretty well received by the mass.

Not only does Amazon give away one popular app for free everyday, its AppStore also has some features which the Android Market lacks. Amazon also launched its Cloud based music player for the Android and Windows OS, so as to compete with Google’s upcoming Music service.


Now, the folks over at AndroidPolice have got their hands on an upcoming Android handset, to be released by Amazon! The code-name of the handset is Blaze’ and it will be powered by a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor from Qualcomm, and pack 512MB of RAM.

Other specs of the handset include 32GB of internal storage, 5MP camera at the back, 1.3MP camera in the front for video calling, MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link), NFC chip, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1700mAh battery and a 4.3-inch Mirasol’ display. Amazon will launch the handset with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on-board, with their own custom skin running on top of it.

According to the tipster, the Mirasol’ display will not require any backlighting to display content, which means it is going to be light on power consumption. Apparently, the back of the phone will also sport a solar panel, which will be made up of a new material unlike other solar panels which are made up of copper.

To know more about Amazon’s Blaze handset, readers should head over to this link.

Google Acquires Twitter; Google Ads Coming In Your Timeline Soon

Google was interested in buying since a very long time. However, the deal fell through and they weren’t able to buy them out the last time. Google was still interested in what Twitter had to offer though and they entered into a separate deal with Twitter where they paid Twitter millions of dollars just to get access to tweets for their Real-time search.

Google Twitter

Earlier today, Twitter rolled out a new change to their in which they got rid of the #Dickbar. However, that move was more of an exciting new deal Twitter made with Google rather than soothing it’s irate users.

A Google and Twitter spokesperson spoke to us on the condition of anonymity stating that the app was updated because Google had finalized a deal with Twitter where they will purchase them. The deal is set to be announced tomorrow.

According to the deal, Google will take over Twitter’s advertising platform and start displaying ads on the Twitter web interface while inserting relevant ads in users timelines for updates they see on the web and on their devices.

Though the Google AdSense ads on the site will not annoy users, the ads in users timeline will more likely than not annoy users to no end. There are also plans to send advertising to users who subscribe to Twitter through SMS, furthering the anger among people. Both Google and Twitter are working hard to make the new experience as good as they can, but considering the backlash Twitter got for the #Dickbar, this is sure to escalate to a higher level.

It is being said that Jack Dorsey was brought back as the Executive Chairman of Twitter for specifically finalizing this deal with Google. Though the actual amount of the acquisition is not known, but it is said to be close to $2.5 billion which is more than what Google paid for and a little less than what they paid for their DoubleClick acquisition.

Further details on the deal are not yet available. However, we will keep you updated once we learn more from the official announcement tomorrow.

So what do you think of this announcement? Would you like to see relevant ads in your timeline or do you think that this is another #dickbar move? Do you think Twitter should have sold to Google after staying independent for so long?

P.S. Don’t believe what you read on the Internet and Newspapers today. Happy April Fool’s Day from the Techie Buzz staff.

Image Credit: PC World

Better Customized Ads Coming To Gmail; More Focus on Local Ads, Signals

is one of the best free email service out there. Most of the money Google makes from Gmail comes through advertisements. However, most of the ads on Gmail are not relevant or are not really related to the messages you are reading.

Gmail Logo

Google is looking to remedy that by showing better ads in Gmail based on various things. The new changes would mean that users will see:

  • Fewer irrelevant ads
  • Gmail’s importance ranking applied to ads
  • Offers and coupons for your local area

Gmail will use the same signals it is using to sort message in Priority Inbox to sort and show appropriate ads to the users. Google will also focus on delivering and displaying more local ads based on the type of messages you receive in your inbox.

For example, if you’ve recently received a lot of messages about photography or cameras, a deal from a local camera store might be interesting. On the other hand if you’ve reported these messages as spam, you probably don’t want to see that deal.

The new Gmail ads will be rolled out to a few users at first with a more widespread rollout coming in near future. Gmail will allow users to choose whether Google should use signals from their messages while displaying ads or not.

Gmail Personalized Ad Signals

To stop Google from using your email messages as signal, go to your Settings page in Gmail and uncheck the box next to saying "Don’t use these signals to show ads" next to the "Importance signals for ads". You might not see the option if the customized ads have not been activated for your account.

Watch a video of how Gmail will customize ads based on signals and local deals below. Click here if you can’t watch it.

Google Launches Page Speed Online, Taking Speed Obsession to the Next Level

From dealing in web search and an array of other web services, Google has understood one fact over time- people love speed. Speed goes in line with the quality and popularity of the service you provide. If your service is too slow, you are running the risk of losing your users.

Google started considering speed data for websites and it is a determining factor behind search ranking. To help developers and website admins make their websites faster, Google has rolled out a new feature from its Google labs: the Page Speed Online tool. This tool simply takes the page speed tool online and makes it available as a web-service.


Page Speed Online is described as,

Page Speed Online analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates.

With this tool, Google estimates your website performance in terms of page-speed and returns a score. This score indicates your site’s scope for further improvements. Google.com has a perfect score of 100. However, this score should not be seen as a direct indicator of page loading time. The loading time of websites can be tested with Pingdom tools load test.

I tested my blog against the Page speed and the result appears as shown below.


Not only this, this tool from Google also gives a list of matters you should take care of, with three different levels of priority.


All in all, this will help webmasters work towards creating a better and faster web. The same tool was available with a Firefox addd-on earlier and launching this as a web-service makes it easily accessible across all browsers and platforms.


Google Is Working On a Face Detection App

Update: Google just clarified that they are not yet working on a Face detection app and there were factual errors in the CNN report. See the bottom of the post for an updated statement from Google.

Google is working on face identification software that will detect your face and display personal information about you. The product will be available as a mobile app. For this app to work, you have to opt-in and allow Google access to your personal information and to your picture for the identification purpose. The concept sounds cool, and Google can deliver a killer app if they manage to keep the creep factor out of this app.

This app can raise some serious privacy outcry. Hartmut Neven, the Google engineering director for image-recognition development says,

In order to be identified by the software, people would have to check a box agreeing to give Google permission to access their pictures and profile information. We recognize that Google has to be extra careful when it comes to these [privacy] issues.

The project is still in an initial stage and there is no release date yet. However, Google says that people have been asking for a feature like this, from a long time. However, Google has too much to lose if it makes a wrong move in this project. This will always be a constrain in services involving user’s privacy.

This can do wonders when combined with the Social aspect Google has been working on. Overall, the app will be received well as people will love to appear on a people-search powered by Google.

Update: I spoke with a Google spokesperson who denied that they are working on a face recognition app for Google Goggles or other technologies.

Statement From A Google Spokesperson

As we’ve said for more than a year, we will not add facial recognition to Goggles unless we have strong privacy protections in place. We’re still working on them. We have nothing to announce at this time.

Update 2: CNN also issued a statement in support of the reporter saying that they stand by him and the interview was arrange by Google PR themselves.

Google’s claims do not fit the facts of the situation. This interview was prearranged on the record and staffed by a Google PR rep, who raised no objections at the time and did not deny what the engineer said. Additionally, we have an audio recording of the interview, as does Google. We stand firmly behind Mark’s reporting.

Additional reporting by Keith Dsouza.