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Confirming Pixel Rumours not Enough for Google to Woo Users

"To keep up with competition with Amazon, I'd expect Google to launch several new smart home speakers and devices and to pivot all of them under the Nest brand umbrella," Husson noted

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Google, Pixel, Smartphone, Camera
New leaked images of a pre-release Pixel 4 XL provided by Vietnamese phone shop D Store Mobile. Pixabay

While Pixel smartphones demonstrate Google’s willingness to more tightly integrate hardware and software like Apple, they have not been a massive sales success story for now owing to the lack of a solid strategy to beat the rivals, industry analysts said on Monday.

Google is set to announce two new Pixel smartphones — Pixel 4 and 4 XL along with a 5G version — a rumoured Pixel Watch and a slew of updated home products like Nest series of devices.

Google Pixel currently has a minuscule global market share despite arriving on the scene in 2016. In the second quarter of 2019, it had less than 0.1 market share in the Indian premium smartphone segment.

According to Frank Gillett, Vice President and Principal Analyst at global market research firm Forrester, Google needs to do more than just confirm rumours of the Pixel 4 and its list of flagship phone innovations at its launch event on October 15.

“Keeping the Pixel as a lighthouse Android smartphone to challenge and inspire Android OEM (original equipment manufacturers) partners won’t be enough. Google needs to update their Nest line of devices. We expect to see updates to the Mini smart speaker, at a minimum, plus new Google Wi-Fi units with a smart speaker included,” Gillett told IANS.

They should also update on the Google Buds, the Pixelbook laptop and the Nest Hello digital doorbell, he added.

“Google’s devices team needs to keep up with competition from Amazon, whose Echo and Ring products lines now cover a wide swath of the smart home.

“And Microsoft’s new Surface line of products has put Google on notice that Microsoft is back in the smartphone race (using Android!) and doubling down on thought leadership for laptops and tablets,” Gillett added.

Launched with much fanfare, the first edition of Pixel and Pixel XL were announced during a press event on October 4, 2016, succeeding the Nexus line of smartphones.

google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

Pixels suffered from several issues after the release, including excessive optical lens flare in pictures captured through rear camera, connectivity issues with some mobile data bands, unstable Bluetooth connections, unexpected battery shutdowns, and failing microphones.

Google acknowledged those issues and released fixes for most of them but to no avail.

The tech giant has also admitted that it has sold fewer Pixel phones owing to industry-wide pressure on high-end smartphones.

“For the new Pixel 4 smartphones to be successful, Google will have to do two things — to accelerate retail execution and partnerships with telcos and to demonstrate that tighter integration with Android 10 delivers a better experience than the new iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 devices,” said Thomas Husson, Vice President and Principal Analyst.

The analysts expect Google to also try to differentiate by embedding the latest version of the Google Assistant, enabling new use cases and interfaces with apps.

Also Read: iPhone 11 Takes Apple Ahead of Microsoft in $1-tn Market cap: Report

“It remains to be seen if Google manages to launch the new Google Assistant in multiple languages beyond English. Beyond tighter voice integration, Google may also support touchless hand gestures and advanced face unlock,” Husson added.

Given the slow 5G start and the limited consumer benefits, Google may wait till 2020 for a 5G edition, the analysts suggested.

“To keep up with competition with Amazon, I’d expect Google to launch several new smart home speakers and devices and to pivot all of them under the Nest brand umbrella,” Husson noted. (IANS)

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“Should Online Platforms Be Liable for User Posts?”, Asks U.S Attorney General William Barr

Barr Asks: Should Facebook, Google Be Liable for User Posts?

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Online Attorney general
This photo combo of images shows, clockwise, from upper left: a Google sign, the Twitter app, YouTube TV logo and the Facebook app. VOA

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned whether Facebook, Google and other major online platforms still need the immunity from legal liability that has prevented them from being sued over material their users post.

“No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts. They have become titans,” Barr said at a public meeting held by the Justice Department to examine the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“Given this changing technological landscape, valid questions have been raised about whether Section 230’s broad immunity is necessary, at least in its current form,” he said.

Section 230 says online companies such as Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of information they provide. This largely exempts them from liability involving content posted by users, although they can be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

Barr’s comments offered insight into how regulators in Washington are reconsidering the need for incentives that once helped online companies grow but are increasingly viewed as impediments to curbing online crime, hate speech and extremism.

U.S Attorney general
U.S. Attorney General William Barr arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

The increased size and power of online platforms has also left consumers with fewer options, and the lack of feasible alternatives is a relevant discussion, Barr said, adding that the Section 230 review came out of the Justice Department’s broader look at potential anticompetitive practices at tech companies.

Lawmakers from both major political parties have called for Congress to change Section 230 in ways that could expose tech companies to more lawsuits or significantly increase their costs.

Lawmakers’ concerns

Some Republicans have expressed concern that Section 230 prevents them from taking action against internet services that remove conservative political content, while a few Democratic leaders have said the law allows the services to escape punishment for harboring misinformation and extremist content.

Barr said the department would not advocate a position at the meeting. But he hinted at the idea of allowing the U.S. government to act against recalcitrant platforms, saying it was “questionable” whether Section 230 should prevent the American government from suing platforms when it is “acting to protect American citizens.”

Others at the meeting floated different ideas.

The attorney general of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, noted that the law does not shield platforms from federal criminal prosecution; the immunity helps protect against civil claims or a state-level prosecution. Peterson said the exception should be widened to allow state-level action as well. Addressing the tech industry, he called it a “pretty simple solution” that would allow local officials “to clean up your industry instead of waiting for your industry to clean up itself.”

Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said such a solution would result in tech giants having to obey 50 separate sets of laws governing user content.

He suggested law enforcement’s energies might be better spent pursuing the millions of tips that the tech industry sent over every year, only a small fraction of which, he noted, resulted in investigations.

U.S Attorney general
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. VOA

“There appears to be some asymmetry there,” he said.

Others argued that different rules should apply to different platforms, with larger websites enjoying fewer protections than internet upstarts.

“With great scale comes great responsibility,” said David Chavern, of the News Media Alliance, whose members have bristled as Google and Facebook have gutted journalism’s business model.

How to distinguish

But other panelists argued that distinguishing one site from another might be tricky. For example, would platforms like Reddit or Wikipedia, which have large reach but shoestring staffs, be counted as big sites or small ones?

The panelists also briefly debated encryption, another area over which Barr has pressed the tech industry to change its modus operandi. Facebook in particular has drawn the ire of U.S. officials over its plans to secure its popular messaging platform.

Also Read- Xiaomi Works To Make “Smart Masks” That Collect Air Data in Real-Time

Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, urged caution.

“This is a massive norm-setting period,” she said, with any alterations to one of the internet’s key legal frameworks likely to draw unexpected consequences. “It’s hard to know exactly what the ramifications might be.”  (VOA)