Google’s new Hangouts app now available for iPhone and iPad

Google just announced a new unified messaging service today that will be available across multiple platforms and now the iOS app is officially available to download on the App Store.

Google-Hangouts-app-iconThe free Hangouts app is available as a universal download for both iPhone and iPad and offers group conversations with photos or 850 emojis, Video calls for hanging out with up to 10 friends, alerts that are synced across devices and more.

More Hangouts awesomeness:
– View and continue your Hangouts across devices.
– Get notifications just once.  After you see an alert, it’ll be removed on other devices.
– Snooze your notifications if you’d prefer to respond later.
– See what you talked about in the past, including shared photos and your video call history.
– Keep a record of any Hangout for just a short period of time by turning history off.
– View collections of photos shared from each of your Hangouts.
– Choose from over 850 emoji to express what’s on your mind.

The Hangouts feature will also be coming to Gmail users today: Read more

Google beats Siri to the Desktop with Google Now-like voice search for Chrome

Google today announced that it is revamping the Google voice search feature available in Chrome on the desktop. While users have always been able to search with their voice through Chrome, Google is attempting to make the service work more like it does through Google Search apps and Google Now on mobile devices.

Chrome will now include “conversational search” with a brand new interface that doesn’t require users to click in order to search with their voice. Like on mobile devices with Google Now, users will now be able to simple say “Google” in order to activate voice search.

Today, we previewed what this conversational experience will look like in Chrome on your desktops and laptops. Soon, you’ll be able to just say, hands-free, “OK Google, will it be sunny in Santa Cruz this weekend?” and get a spoken answer. Then, you’ll be able to continue the conversation and just follow up with “how far is it from here?” if you care about the drive or “how about Monterey?” if you want to check weather somewhere else, and get Google to tell you the answer.

The new interface, as pictured above from Google’s demo of the feature, is much like the voice search interface for Google Now on Android devices.

The new feature will be coming to Macs and PCs through Chrome soon.

Google also briefly showed off some new content coming to Google Now including new cards for Reminders, Music Albums, TV Shows, Books, Public Transit, and Video games rolling out today:
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Google announces Google Play Music ‘All Access’ streaming service, launching today for $9.99/month

From 9to5Google:

Google just announced its much rumored new music service called Google Play Music “All Access” live on stage at its Google I/O event keynote presentation.

Google execs focused on showing off curated playlists but also made a note of pointing out a “radio” feature that will automatically create an endless radio station based on the song you’re currently listening to. The service will also allow users to search for a particular song or view the “playlist” of a radio station to remove unwanted songs.

Also included is a feature called “Listen Now” that will provide quick access to recently listened to songs, customized radio stations based on your preferences, and recommendations for new releases from artists you like.

The service will be available on the web, tablets, and phones through Google Play and cost users $9.99 per month with a 30 day free trial in the US. Those that sign up before the end of June will be able to get the subscription for just $7.99/month and Google said the service will land in other countries soon.

Google announces Google Play game services coming to Android, iOS & web today

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 12.21.22 PM

From 9to5Google:

We knew from leaks in the weeks leading up to I/O that Google was planning some gaming related announcements and today the company has officially announced the service in a press release ahead of its Google I/O keynote taking place now. Not only will the service allow Android developers to build in real-time multiplayer, social features, achievements, and leaderboards while storing game saves and settings in the cloud, the SDK for Google Play game services will also be available to iOS and web developers.

Google noted a few titles for Android have already been updated with the feature including World of Goo, Super Stickman Golf 2, Beach Buggy Blitz, Kingdom Rush, Eternity Warriors 2, and Osmos.

Not surprisingly, the cross-platform gaming service will also build in Google+ integration to track high scores, achievements and more:

-Achievements that increase engagement and promote different styles of play.

-Social and public leaderboards that seamlessly use Google+ circles to track high scores across friends and across the world.

-Cloud saves that provide a simple and streamlined storage API to store game saves and settings. Now players never have to replay Level 1 again.

-Real-time multiplayer for easy addition of cooperative or competitive game play on Android devices. Using G+ Circles a game can have up to 4 simultaneous friends or auto-matched players in a game session together with support for additional players coming soon.

Google’s full press release below: Read more

Intel: Existing Thunderbolt Macs will support optical cables


Pictured above: Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt cable (copper).

A representative for Intel, Dave Salvator, told Macworld that the current range of Macs with Thunderbolt I/O will support fiber optic cables which are due next year. This will ensure backwards compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports which work with copper cables.

Circuitry will ensure compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports, Salvator said. Copper cables provide adequate data transfer for use over short distances of up to six meters (about 20 feet), but optical cables will be good for data transfers over longer distances of tens of meters, Salvator said.

Salvator wouldn’t divulge any pricing and availability information, yet to be determined. This confirmation is in line with the promise on the official Thunderbolt web site that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. This bit is also interesting:

Intel is already thinking ahead, and researchers at the company are developing technology based on silicon photonics that will be able to move data up to five times faster than current Thunderbolt implementations. The technology is slated to hit the market by 2015.

Among the PC vendors, Asustek and Acer will bring Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks to market in the first half of next year. More vendors will follow suit once Intel releases its Ivy Bridge chipsets. Of course, we’re expecting Ivy Bridge MacBooks as well. The Ivy Bridge chipset is said to enable interesting goodies such as OpenCL computing, a 60 percent speed gain over the current Sandy Bridge silicon and display resolutions up to 4096-by-4096 pixels. It will also include built-in support for USB 3.0, but not Thunderbolt.

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AnandTech reviews the Thunderbolt Display

Anand, as per usual, does one of the more in-depth reviews we’ve seen of the Thunderbolt Displays. Some interesting notes:

  • The Thunderbolt Display uses less power than the previous Cinema Display at its dimmest setting (likely just panel efficiency variance) and draws a bit more at max brightness.
  • Pegasus hardware seems to cause serious audio issues which corrupts sound while large file transfers are happening. Expect a fix.
  • There are some nuances with display daisy chaining. For instance, in one configuration Anand had to put a Promise RAID array between the two displays in a daisy chain to get them to work.
  • Next year’s Ivy Bridge will bring more Display options to Macs (and likely USB 3 since the controller is built into the Intel chipset). The future may also hold displays with GPUs built in.
  • For a $1000 display, the speakers “were OK, but not great”. The Camera and Mic were both good.

If you are considering getting one of these displays, check out the full review which was very favorable overall. MacConnection also has the lowest price we could find on the new Thunderbolt display at $979.

Update: Macworld put up a review this morning as well. 4/5 Stars.

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LaCie Thunderbolt Little Big Drives ready for order

We told you late last night that LaCie Thunderbolt disks were arriving in Apple Retail Stores.  Today, LaCie officially announced the availability of its new products which hit the Apple online Store today for $399 (1TB) and $499 (2TB) earlier today.

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That is a $100+ premium over their Firewire drives and you’ll need a $49 Apple Thunderbolt Cable.

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Series sets the new standard for the storage industry. Featuring a pair of 2.5″ drives in a Mac OS RAID configuration, the Little Big Disk delivers stunning read speeds more than 480MB/s in SSD and up to 190MB/s in HDD.

It appears that these drives are limited by the speed of the 2.5-inch drives, not by the bus as the faster SSD blows away the HDD version.  It is curious that they didn’t make a 3.5-inch variety which would have allowed for much greater speed and cost much less.

The SSD version will ship next month.

Promise sells their 4TB Thunderbolt RAID boxes for just over $1000, 8TB for $1500 and 12TB for $2000.

Full Press release follows: Read more

LaCie’s anticipated Thunderbolt-equipped Little Big Disk arrives at the Apple Store, along with Thunderbolt updates

Since Apple and Intel’s joint announcement of the Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology, one of the most anticipated products to make use of the technology has been the Thunderbolt-compatible Little Big Disk from LaCie. The drive – which comes in both HDD and SSD flavors – was announced all the way back in February for a “summer” launch, and is now finally arriving at Apple Stores in both the United States and internationally. LaCie’s description of Thunderbolt and why it is important for a product like the Little Big Disk:

This new high-speed cable technology connects computers and electronic devices together like never before. Thunderbolt technology supports two 10Gb/s bi-directional channels from a single port, the fastest data connection available on a personal computer. At 10Gb/s, a full-length HD movie can be transferred in less than 30 seconds.

Since the drive carries two ports, it can be daisy chained. The drives have already arrived at Apple Stores, which suggest immediate availability, and we are expecting an official announcement from LaCie in the coming days. The hard disk drive variant with 1TB of storage will reportedly cost $399.

Update: here they are.

Apple also announced Thunderbolt updates, another firmware update and a software update for Snow Leopard…

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Apple outlines some limitations of Thunderbolt displays

Following the first shipments of Apple’s new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, a new support document reveals some limitations regarding multiple display support that we weren’t exactly expecting.

Nearly every current Mac model is able to support two Thunderbolt displays. The exceptions are the 13-inch MacBook Air (mid 2011), which only supports one, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro which supports two, but disables the device’s main display to do so. Also of note, the $800 Mac mini can support three Thunderbolt displays thanks to the AMD graphics and its HDMI port.

One other somewhat surprising limitation of the new displays is the inability to daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort screen off the new Thunderbolt display. The support document explains:
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First Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt Cinema Displays begin arriving (photos)

Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt Cinema Displays have begun arriving to customer’s homes. The display looks virtually identical to the previous generation of the giant 27-inch Cinema Display from Apple, and includes USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, a FireWire 800 port, and an Ethernet port.

More photos courtesy of reader Scott are after the break.

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Intel: Optical Thunderbolt cables due next year, still at “only” 10 Gbps per channel

Intel today released a couple tidbits to cast more light on Thunderbolt I/O and give folks some perspective concerning its road map. This is my next details some of the features which are outlined in greater detail over at the brand new Thunderbolt web site, which mostly covers branding and various technicalities. For example, we now have it in writing that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. Per official information, the maximum allowed length of electrical Thunderbolt cables is three meters. Plugs are compatible with Mini-DisplayPort, but DisplayPort cables won’t work as a Thunderbolt cable replacement.

The biggest takeaway is that active optical cables are coming “sometime next year.” Optics will extend Thunderbolt cables to “tens of meters”, but they’ll still provide the same 10 Gbps bidirectional data transfer speeds per channel (there are two channels per cable), much as today’s electrical cables that have circuitry in cable ends. In all, about twenty third-parties are backing Intel’s technology, which isn’t that much considering that Thunderbolt, after all, is a future-proof I/O technology from the world’s largest chip maker.

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