This Google doodle video tells the story of a boy lost in love. Eager to win over his crush, the boy turns to Google, but searches for all of the trite V-Day gifts. Roses? She doesn't care. Chocolates? Not gonna work. Dinosaur sweatshirt? He gets points for creativity, but his rope-jumping heartthrob doesn't seem to notice.
Finally, the boy stops trying to gift his way into her heart. There's a far more effective method: sharing a common interest. He grabs his own jump rope, stands beside her, and within a few hops, he's won her over. It's a darling video, similar to Google's Paris Super Bowl ad from 2010. But this one has a political kicker.
IN PICTURES: Google Doodles you'll never see
After the boy and girl live happily ever after, the video cuts to six couples. Standing front and center is a man, dressed in a tuxedo, holding hands with another man. Is this a subtle sign of support for gay marriage?
"While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality," wrote Google co-founder Sergey Brin before election day that year. "We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 – we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love."
(While voters approved Prop. 8, two courts later called the law unconstitutional. The case now moves to the US Supreme Court.)
The company hasn't stopped there. According to PC World, "Google changes the layout of its search pages every year during Gay Pride month. [In 2011], when you use Google to search for terms such as gay, lesbian or transgender, the results appear with a rainbow swooping down from and curling around the search bar." Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as it is now known, takes place in June.
If today's doodle is another wink to gay marriage supporters, Google has some excellent timing. On Monday, Washington became the seventh state to allow same-sex couples to wed, thanks in part to strong support from Microsoft and northwest companies. New Jersey may vote to become the eighth state as early as Thursday.
For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.
IN PICTURES: Google Doodles you'll never see
The PlayStation Vita, the latest video game portable from Sony, launches tomorrow in a limited first edition bundle, to be followed on Feb. 22 by the standard-issue hardware. The Vita, as we've reported in the past, faces a pretty big challenge: Attracting all those gamers who would rather buy cheap downloadable titles, and play them on their iPhone/Android/tablet.
So hey, how good is the Vita, exactly? Pretty good, according to reviewers. But before we hit the scorecards, here are the relevant details: The Vita sells at two price configurations, $249 for a Wi-Fi model, and $299 for a Vita with 3G connectivity. Launch titles include a new "Uncharted" game, "Gravity Rush," and "WipeOut 2048." Got it? Then let's roll.
The opening shot
"The Vita – hefty and gleaming, like the Space Shuttle – is the best and most capable portable gaming system of all time, in that it replicates 'the console experience' better than anything else ever has," writes Sam Biddle of Gizmodo. "The graphics it pushes through on its 5-inch screen actually approach what you can see with a PlayStation 3. Approaches, not equals, but still! It's a handheld gaming system – and being able to even see the taillights of a current-gen console is laudable."
"The Vita measures just 3.29-inches high, 7.2-inches wide, and 0.73-inches deep," notes Ryan Fleming of Digital Trends. "It isn’t bulky, but it is slightly too big to fit in most normal pockets. It’s slim and lightweight enough to easily fit in cargo pants pockets, and won’t weigh you down if you put it in your backpack." Compared to the PlayStation Portable, Fleming writes, "the Vita shows a marked improvement. The awkward angles have been removed and replaced with rounded corners that make far more sense than the uncomfortable ridges on the early PSPs."
"The first thing you notice is the lustrous, five-inch OLED screen, a gargantuan display that is almost intoxicating," writes the critic for the New York Daily News. "Don’t be surprised if you stare at the screen for a few moments as soon as you power up the machine (I certainly did), just to marvel at the brilliant color production. The 960x544 display looks good from all angles and performs well with both games and movies."
"The Vita hardware makes use of just about every control paradigm used in the gaming world today, from traditional hardware buttons to touch and motion," writes Sam Byford of The Verge. "The physical layout is pretty similar to the PSP, with the four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, and a D-pad joined by a pair of analog sticks, though unlike the PS3 you don't get button functionality by pushing them in." The Vita, Byford adds, "also has an array of motion sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer and digital compass, which allows for the same sort of input as the PS3's Sixaxis controller."
The hidden costs
"Anything downloaded and installed on the Vita must be done with the use of a Vita Memory Card, as the Vita has an undisclosed – but seemingly small – amount of onboard storage," writes the team at CNET. "Vita Memory Cards are even smaller than the game cards, mostly resembling Sony M2 and microSD cards. Vita Memory Cards have become a particularly controversial subject with the Vita, as it's also required to play almost all Vita games and media apps. Even more disheartening is the fact that a Vita Memory Card isn't included in the box."
Writing at Engadget, Sean Buckley calls the software on the Vita, which is controlled via the touchscreen, "smartphone-esque." Touch is "the name of the game; the menu won't accept any input, save that of your capacitive-friendly digits, Buckley continues. "Blowing off the buttons is a bit of a bold move, but when the touch controls work this well, we really don't mind. Navigation is simple and intuitive – flicking north or south brings you through as many as ten pages of staggered icons, each representing an app, game or feature."
"The Vita is not a flawless system, but when it comes to the important features that make a handheld gaming console worthwhile, it hits most of the notes," writes Kyle Hilliard of Game Informer. "Incredible graphics, responsive touchscreen and tilt mechanics, and the extra control stick make the Vita one of the most well-rounded handhelds we’ve ever seen. Given its myriad input options, the Vita can satisfy the casual gamer used to playing games with a touchscreen and the much harder to please hardcore gamer who wants full control and amazing graphics."
The iPad was an extraordinary success for Apple – according to one report, Apple managed to unload 43 million of the tablet computers over the course of 2011. So it makes sense that interest would be extremely high in the iPad 3, the purported successor to the iPad 2. Last we checked, Silicon Valley scuttlebutt put the iPad 3 launch in early March; the device is rumored to be getting a better screen, and more powerful innards.
So what other new technology will arrive onboard the iPad 3? A 4G LTE antenna, maybe. This morning, in a much-cited dispatch, The Wall Street Journal reported that at least some versions of the new iPad will get 4G connectivity, both on the AT&T and Verizon Wireless high-speed networks. Caveats abound: The carriers are declining comment, and so is Apple; the Journal says only that the information comes from "people familiar with the matter."
Still, the timing makes sense. Over the last couple months, AT&T and Verizon have begun selling a range of phones that work at 4G speeds, including the Droid 4. (It's worth noting here that with the accelerated download speeds, comes great responsibility: 4G users have to watch that they don't go zooming over their monthly data caps. Verizon, for its part, has re-issued its "double down" 4G promotion to help attract new consumers.)
Over at Information Weeks, Eric Zeman points out that the Verizon LTE network is live in about 200 markets, where it covers approximately 190 million users. AT&T reportedly cuts a smaller swath with its high-speed 4G network: About a dozen markets and 90 million users. Either way, connecting your shiny new iPad 3 to those networks won't be cheap.
"If you're interested in an LTE 4G iPad 3, prepare to pay for it," Zeman writes. "Apple has consistently charged $130 more for cellular-equipped iPads when compared to the Wi-Fi-only models. Whether or not AT&T or Verizon will offer the iPad 3 at a reduced price with a contract is unknown, but not probable. Both Verizon and AT&T offer month-to-month data options for devices such as tablets, but offerings for the iPad 3 have not been announced."
Earlier this month, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster forecasted the imminent arrival of an Apple TV set, possibly as soon as the fourth quarter of 2012. In Munster's rendering, the Apple TV would stream a range of live and digital content, and sync with other Apple platforms, such as iCloud. Now comes word that Google, Apple's Silicon Valley rival, is considering its own "home entertainment device."
According to The New York Times, Google is at work on a "branded item," which will mark "the company’s most significant venture into hardware." (Google, of course, already sells branded phones, such as the Galaxy Nexus.) Crucially, unlike Apple TV, this gadget – let's call it the Google Entertainment Gizmo.
So why would Google, which makes plenty of cash on advertising sales, want to expand into the hardware market? Well, over at PC World, Daniel Ionescu has a couple ideas.
"Apple has shown that by controlling the hardware and software, it can deliver better-integrated products and make high profits not only from content sales, but also from hardware," Ionescu writes. "Google gives Android away for free to phone manufacturers, but if it controls the hardware, it could command higher profits. So far, Google’s main revenue source remains search advertising."
Moreover, Google may simply have no choice. As Forrester analyst James McQuivey told the Times this week, "Google’s future depends on extending its influence beyond the PC screen." McQuivey points out that Google has experienced some success with its line of mobile phones, which have received rapturous marks from critics, although it has had more trouble with its Google TV project.
At any rate, any Google stereo would likely sync with Google Music, an online store and music-sharing platform introduced last November. Google Music launched with 13 million tracks from a handful of labels, including majors such as EMI, Sony, and Universal, and an estimated 1,000 indie houses. Google Music is a ready-made trove of content for the Google Entertainment Gizmo.
Or whatever it's going to be called.
Apple could release a new iPad as early as next month. As we noted yesterday, several new reports point to a March unveiling in San Francisco, presumably followed – a week or so later – by the official launch of the iPad 3. So what kind of features will Apple load onto its latest tablet?
An improved screen, for sure. The current model iPad – the iPad 2 – sports a 9.7-inch display, with 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. Decent, but there's plenty of room for improvement, and the bulk of the recent iPad 3 gossip has centered on a Retina Display, similar to the one used on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Writing this week in All Things D, John Paczkowski predicted the iPad 3 would get a 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution, "or something close to it."
As for the shape of the forthcoming device – well, odds are that Apple won't reinvent
the the tablet here. A recent image, published first on the Repair Labs Blog, and then circulated elsewhere, purportedly shows the iPad 3, and it looks a lot like the iPad 2. The difference, according to The Verge: structural changes "which will allow for a larger battery, slightly reconfigured logic board, new cameras, and a different screen." wheel
Consumers can also expect the arrival of Siri, the voice-controlled personal assistant introduced on the iPhone 4S. Siri has been popular among users, as Gregg Keizer of Computerworld has pointed out. There's plenty of evidence to indicate that Siri has helped drive interest in the latest iPhone. It makes sense that Apple would trot out the functionality on the iPad 3.
Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl around a second, smaller iPad, with a 7-inch screen, which Apple could roll out later in 2012. "I believe that's always been in the plan" analyst Ezra Gottheil told Computerworld this week, referring to a small iPad. "Actually that's a good form factor for some users, and although they will also charge a premium above other similar-sized tablets, they want to protect that price flank."
This syncs with reports from late 2011, which also pointed to a two-iPad 2012.
Quick: picture a web service that gives you easy access to your files and media, wherever you are. You can upload your stuff to a server and pull it down to as many devices as you want, anywhere you have an Internet connection.
Sound familiar? That’s the model behind services such as Dropbox, Box.net, and Windows Live SkyDrive. But according to a new report, Google will soon muscle in on the cloud-storage turf with its own service.
The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the matter," reported Thursday that Google is preparing to launch a long-rumored service called "Drive" sometime in the next few weeks or months. Why use Drive over an existing service? Well, assuming you already have a Google account, you probably already have a lot of photos, documents, and other media stored on Google's servers. Drive would give you one-stop access to all your files, wherever you have an Internet connection.
To be fair, Google’s other services already offer a fragmented version of cloud syncing. Take a picture on your Android smart phone, for example, and Google can automatically upload it to its Picasa photo service, where it's held in a private album until you decide to publish it. Google Docs offers an easy way to keep documents in the cloud -- in fact, you never need to download a local copy if you don't want to. (Google also gave users the ability, back in 2010, to upload any kind of media to Google Docs, so it can already function as a catchall backup service, albeit in a hacky sort of way.)
But Drive would, at least according to the rumors, be a smoother, all-encompassing solution for this sort of thing. Rather than have to hunt in the service associated with the file type you're looking for (Docs for documents, Picasa for photos, etc.), all your stuff just lives in the cloud, held in one area. The Journal says users will be able to store a few gigabytes of data on Google's servers for free, with inexpensive paid options for larger capacities.
No word yet on whether there will be a desktop client for the service. Dropbox uses a model in which a folder lives on your desktop and files placed into it are automatically synced to the cloud. Apple’s iCloud service is designed in a similar way. But given Google’s penchant for web apps, it seems likely that Drive would be a platform-agnostic, fully online service.
Readers, what do you think about all this? Would you use Drive, or are you already happy with another service? Let us know in the comments.
Now, two decades later, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the government has finally released the 191-page file, and the documents within offer an intriguing look at the man behind the Apple empire.
Among the topics covered: Possible past drug use; a Top Secret government security clearance given to Mr. Jobs in 1988 (the reasons remain unclear); and the often contentious relationship between Jobs and his employees. "Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs' honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals," read the FBI documents, according to USA Today.
(It's worth noting here that in 1991, when the FBI file was created, Jobs had been fired from Apple, and moved to positions at Pixar and NeXT Computer, which he founded. In fact, the employer listed on the 1988 security clearance was Pixar. In 1996, Apple purchased NeXT, and Jobs returned to his former company.)
Elsewhere, interviewees are more positive about Jobs's infamously prickly demeanor: "Strongwilled, stubborn, hardworking, and driven, which they believe is why he is so successful. And that Mr. Jobs possesses integrity as long as he gets his way; however they did not elaborate on this," reads one excerpt highlighted by the Los Angeles Times.
As Philip Elmer-Dewitt of Forbes notes today, the files don't make for a particularly "flattering picture, but [it's] nothing we haven't heard before." Last year, Walter Isaacson published "Steve Jobs," an authorized biography of the Apple CEO, and although the book was largely flattering, it did take note of Jobs's frequent clashes with friends, allies, and competitors.
The release date of the iPad 3 draws nigh. That's the word from All Things D, which reports today that Apple will unveil the iPad 3 at a press event in San Francisco, almost exactly a year after the release of the iPad 2. Caveats abound: Apple hasn't confirmed the report, and Apple rumors are something of a national sport this time of year.
Still, the timing lines up, and John Paczkowski, who quotes anonymous industry sources, isn't the kind of reporter to be flinging around completely speculative gossip. So hey, if Apple does take the wraps off the iPad 3 in the first week in March, when will the tablet actually hit shelves? Well, probably a week or so after the launch event – standard issue for new Apple products.
"As for the next-generation iPad itself," Paczkowski writes, "sources say it will be pretty much what we’ve been led to expect by the innumerable reports leading up to its release: A device similar in form factor to the iPad 2, but running a much faster chip, sporting an improved graphics processing unit, and featuring a 2048 x 1536 Retina Display – or something close to it."
Apple, of course, already uses the Retina Display on its iPhone 4 and 4S, and analysts have been waiting for the iPad to be fitted with similar technology. Assuming the All Things D report is correct – and as Paczkowski hints, almost every iPad 3 rumor has hinged on an improved screen, so there's no reason to suspect it's not – expect Apple to push the new feature in a major way.
In related news, back in December, DigiTimes, a well-sourced Taiwanese newspaper, predicted the arrival of two new Apple tablets – a full-sized iPad 3, with a traditional display, and a smaller device, with a 7.85-inch screen. (That's about half the size of today's iPad.) No news has since broken about the pint-sized iPad – not in the All Things D report or elsewhere – so it may be safe to assume that this will be a one-iPad year.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Microsoft announced today a launch date for a "consumer preview" version of Windows 8, the long-awaited update to its flagship operating system. Microsoft will take the wraps off the new OS on February 29, during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But according to Computerworld, Windows 8 will get its own separate event, at a local hotel – the better, presumably, to cater to a small army of curious reporters.
So hey, why isn't this Windows 8 preview emblazoned with a "beta" sticker? In a post over at ZDNet, Ed Bott argues that the "widespread use" of the phrase "beta" has "muddled its meaning beyond repair."
If Microsoft had filed the release under beta, "Old-school Windows beta testers would be demanding to know where to file bug reports, while the real target market might be scared off by the 'don’t get mad at us' asterisk," Bott writes.
Instead, Microsoft is signaling that the Windows 8 preview is for all users – not just the hardened geeks.
As we noted yesterday, it seems that Microsoft will strip from Windows 8 the iconic Start button, long an integral part of the Microsoft Windows experience. In its place, users will get something called a "hot corner," which will be available on tablet and desktop versions of the new Windows OS.
Microsoft has framed Windows 8 as a particularly versatile operating system, fit for the modern computing landscape, which includes both traditional laptops and tablets computers. The interface on Windows 8, currently dubbed Metro, will run on both types of machines, Microsoft has said. As the team at Ars Technica notes today, "this is a desktop operating system that won't be confined to the desktop."
Looks like the hackers win this round.
On Tuesday afternoon, the "hacktivist" network Anonymous published the source code to security software vendor Symantec's pcAnywhere program on torrent sites, apparently after negotiations to the tune of $50,000 fell through. Anonymous posted emails earlier this week detailing the negotiations, which took place between "Yamatough," an online personality representing an Anonymous-affiliated group, and either a Symantec employee or a law enforcement sting operation (it depends on who you ask).
According to the emails, Symantec offered Yamatough $50,000 in exchange for the destruction of the source code and a public statement saying that Symantec hadn't been hacked in the first place. Negotiations broke down when Yamatough demanded the money be sent through Liberty Reserve, an offshore account, and accused Symantec of cooperating with the FBI. Symantec asked for more time to negotiate and asked to send the money in small chunks, but the email exchange broke off after Yamatough gave the company ten minutes to "decide which way you go."
The alleged hack happened way back in 2006, but the issue didn't surface until last month. When Anonymous threatened to release the code in late January, Symantec initially asked users to stop using pcAnywhere, fearing that known vulnerabilities might be exploited. A few days later, it released patches for affected version that plugged the security holes.
At the same time, however, Symantec was apparently negotiating with the hackers to prevent the public release of the code. And now that negotiations have broken down, "pcAnywhere" is out in the wild, accompanied by the logo of the Anonymous subgroup "AntiSec." The group also threatened to publish the source code to several Norton antivirus programs, although that hasn't happened yet.
What's to be done? Well, it doesn't look like users are at much risk. Symantec has already released patches for pcAnywhere to protect against the vulnerabilities in the leaked code, and it says the Norton code is too old to be used for cyber attacks. But the hack certainly leaves Symantec with a public relations mess on its hands. Cris Praden, the company's Senior Manager for Corporate Communications, commented that Symantec contacted law enforcement as soon as the "attempted extortion and apparent theft of intellectual property" came to light.
Readers, are you battening down your security hatches? What do you think the fallout for Symantec will be for this incident? Let us know in the comments.