According to a recent interview with Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, Chrome is on its way out of the beta stages.
Having only been in beta for three months, the move is notably impressive. Google is hoping to cater to many customers, including OEMs, that can’t offer the browser until it is official. They’re also planning to bundle Chrome with the Google Toolbar and other Google Apps.
The timely release comes alongside a large push by Google to redefine the browser around the open Web. Their plans to have Chrome work as a platform where users can run their applications are ambitious, but admirable. With any luck, we can see some concrete results in the coming year.
The Open Handset Alliance, which is responsible for promoting the use of Google’s Android operating system, recently added 14 new members to its roster.
The newest additions include Vodafone (the world’s largest mobile operator), AKM Semiconductor, ARM, ASUSTek Computer, Atheros Communications, Borqs, Ericsson, Garmin International, Huawei Technologies, Omron Software, Softbank Mobile, Sony Ericsson, Teleca, and Toshiba. An impressive group that’s been added onto the 34 strong that signed on when the Open Handset Alliance started a year ago.
The members of the alliance are expected to “deploy compatible Android devices, contribute significant code to the Android Open Source Project, or support the ecosystem through products and services that will accelerate the availability of Android-based devices.”
It’s expected that these additions will help grow Android’s influence on the mobile market. And goodness knows it could use the help, because Google has a long way to go before they get a significant market share.
Google seems to be espousing a very simple strategy of expanding rapidly and at all costs. Although there is always going to be the possibility of Google spreading itself too thin, there is also immense hope of it benefiting under the law of averages. Market research firm Net Applications has fueled rumors of a Google OS. Yes, Google might be getting ready to enter the OS market.
Net Applications’ legion of software sensors across the internet has gathered some interesting data recently. Around one third of the traffic coming from Google has its OS information inexplicably hidden. According to Net Applications, this is truly unprecedented as they have never observed “an OS stripped off the user agent string before”. Is Google working on an OS of its own now?
In a bid to woo more developers towards its vernal Android platform, Google has begun offering a Sim-and hardware-unlocked G1 phone to developers. The unlocked version not only opens the floodgates for developers from around the globe, but it also presents an alternative to those US-based developers who have been resisting the retail version.
Google has confirmed the availability of the unlocked phone in 18 countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, France, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Hungary. Although the unlocked G1 costs only $399, developers will have to part with $25 to register themselves on the Android Market site before they can order the phone.
ATI videocard owners take note - AMD has released new Catalyst drivers, v8.12, for both Windows XP and Vista. The new Catalyst release brings with it performance improvements in several DX9 and DX10 games, including up to a 25 percent boost in Crysis (DX10) for both Single and Crossfire mode. More recent releases, such as Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3, also receive a claimed performance boost by up to 10 percent and 15 percent respectively.
Many bug fixes accompany 8.12, such as improved HD video playback no longer causing Vista to stop responding, better support for connecting an All-in-Wonder card to a Yamaha receiver via an HDMI cable, and several more.
The new drivers also unlock the ATI Stream compute acceleration capabilities built into Radeon HD 3870, HD 3870 X2, and all HD 4000 series graphics cards. Similar to Nvidia's CUDA technology, ATI Stream is a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that enable AMD GPUs to work with the CPU and accelerate applications other than just graphics. To show off the technology, AMD has made available its free ATI Video Converter utility.
The good just got better with the release of the Opera 10 alpha made available earlier today to showcase the new Presto 2.2 rendering engine. The company claims the new rendering engine is up to 30 percent faster than Presto 2.1, which provides the foundation for Opera 9.5, while also touting full web standard compliancy.
"Opera has fine-tuned its standards support and, as a result, Opera 10 alpha achieves an Acid3 100/100 Test score," Opera Software wrote in a press release. "This version also provides Web developers with a whole range of new technologies for building better Web sites."
By comparison, Firefox 3.0.4 scores 71/100 on the Acid3 Test, with Firefox 3.1 beta1 and Google Chrome 0.4 scoring 89/100 and 79/100 respectively, according to Cnet.
Several updates are also included in the new Opera browser, including support for the latest HTML and CSS standards, opacity modifications through RGB and HSLA for setting the opacity of any web page element, inline spell-checking, an auto-update feature, and other goodies.
More bad news for big business, as Japan's Sony Corp. announced plans to cut 16,000 jobs, cut back on investments, and pull out of businesses all in attempt to save $1.1 billion a year. The job cuts rank as the biggest ever announced by an Asian company so far in the economic crisis, but some analysts are saying it might not be enough.
"The number sounds big, but this staff reduction won't be enough," said Katsuhiko Mori, a fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments. "Sony doesn't have any core businesses that generate stable profits. After the workforce reduction, the next thing we want to see is what is going to be the business that will drive the company."
Sony already trails Apple's iPod in portable music and the company is losing money on flat TVs. But it could get even worse. Sony acknowledged the market may force its hand at making equivalent cuts from its videogames and movie businesses, saying that the situation was "under simultaneous review."
To weather the storm, Sony said it has also raised European prices for its electronics products. And yes, that could mean higher Blu-ray player pricing, but not for PS3 consoles.
Earlier this month Nvidia reiterated interest in the mini-laptop market, essentially saying it was taking a wait-and-see approach. The graphics chip maker must have liked what it has seen since then, because it appears the company isn't going to wait much longer.
According to DigiTimes, Intel and Nvidia are taking their suddenly cozy relationship into the netbook sector. The two, who just recently finally resolved a licensing dispute allowing SLI technology on Intel chipsets, are said to be working together to enable Nvidia chipset support for the Atom platform. If the rumor pans out, Nvidia's MCP7A chipset will be the first to support Atom processors, with Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI ready to take advantage of the collaboration.
Rumors of a partnership between Intel and Nvidia have been going on since last summer. At the time, Nvidia and VIA had entered into an alliance, leading many to speculate the move was intended to give Nvidia a bargaining chip in convincing Intel to let its Atom chip support Nvidia's MCP73 IGP chipset, or face stiff competition from what could be a potent VIA Nano platform.
No matter what prompted the change of heart, this partnership can be viewed as another major win for Nvidia, who has had a tumultuous year. But more recently, the company has managed to wiggle its way into Apple's refreshed MacBook line, and now appears to be in position to profit from one of the few markets withstanding the global economic storm.
According to the latest entry in Google's blog, the word "magazine" is derived from the Arabic word 'makhazin," meaning storehouse. So what would you call an online storehouse of magazines, both new and old, and accessible for free? We call it a kick-ass idea, one that is now part of Google Book Search.
"Today, we're announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony," Google wrote on its blog.
Fans of Popular Mechanics can peek all the way back in time to May 1872 and read what Rev. T.W. Fowle had to say about Science and Immortality. And then continue to get your geek on by sifting through back issues of Maximum PC, which goes all the way back to October 1998. Who won the Pentium III versus Athlon showdown? The CPU Showdown starts on page 59 of the October 1999 issue.
Google isn't finished adding articles and promises that over time you'll find more and more magazines appear in Google Book Search results. Even still, there's an impressive collection already available and you could easily waste an afternoon, or longer, just digitally flipping through old issues of your favorite rags.
Update: *Waves hand in front of your face* This is apparently just a big misunderstanding. EA told Shacknews that "no statements have been made about the Star Wars business model," and that Ricitiello's statement was misunderstood. Thus, we can't really know how EA will sink its hooks into your wallet until February rolls around. So yeah, these droids? Totally not the one's you've been searching for.
Subscription fees, as we've discussed at length, are the beginning of a slippery slope down Blizzard's single, mega-games' throats, but microtransactions might be a different a story. Most titles that take up the little big label offer their services for free (or a small nominal fee), hoping that you'll drop a few coins into their cup at some point in the future. And if EA has its way, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be one such game.
"We are continuing to stick to the plan relative to building out our direct-to-consumer models which include microtransactions and subscriptions," said EA CEO John Riccitiello in a recent conference call. "The recent launch of Warhammer [Online] is a great example of that."
"Other initiatives we've announced, for example [the] Star Wars online MMO, are mid-session games which are microtransaction-based," he continued. "You'll be hearing more about those in the February [conference] call."
This announcement certainly seems to suggest that BioWare's galaxy far, far away won't take subscription fees as a viable method of payment, though Riccitiello didn't go so far as to completely rule them out.
Regardless, the potential accessibility of a "free" MMO combined with the production values and gameplay of a Scrooge McDuck-level big-budget game could very well melt the Lich King right off his frozen (and likely very uncomfortable) throne -- probably ending all productivity as we know it.
tl;dr: Looks like the Mayan Apocalypse might be coming early this existence. Neat!