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WWDC: WHEN APPLE WATCH BECAME A PLATFORM

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Many incremental improvements mean Apple Watch is becoming more effective for communication, augmentation and more.

Apple’s watchOS 5 plays to the strengths of Apple Watch and opens up some new and interesting ways to develop for and make use of the device.

The enterprise case for Apple Watch

Apple always says its goal with the Apple Watch is to deliver brief and meaningful interactions at exactly the right time.

This dedication to context and convenience means that when the company ships the next iteration of the OS, it will make its solution much more essential to anyone who needs to stay up to date while remaining focused on the matter at hand, or who needs to stay in touch while leaving the phone behind.

Communications boost

Apple Watch is becoming a viable alternative to an iPhone. watchOS 5 builds on the built-in SIM the company put inside the device last year with a series of enhancements:

  • The most immediately useful improvement for most of us will be the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network straight from the Apple Watch.
  • Walkie-talkie lets you contact friends and family just by pushing a button on your device, once you set them up. This works over Wi-Fi and cellular connections, and it can connect people worldwide.
  • You can answer FaceTime and Group FaceTime calls as audio calls on your watch.

In combination with the device’s existing ability to dictate notes and messages, and the new addition of support for looking at websites (see below), Apple Watch has become a powerful communications tool in its own right.

Take notifications

There was a huge cheer at WWDC when Apple announced the introduction of Grouped Notifications on iPhone. This extends to Apple Watch, making it far easier to manage and control the alerts you receive.

The newly introduced Dynamic Notifications feature is something that both public-facing business offering front-end app support to customers and enterprise firms deploying their own proprietary iOS apps will want to explore.

This lets developers add additional steps to a notification — a restaurant may remind you of your booking and ask you to confirm (or change) your arrival time or the number of guests that should be expected. Or a ride sharing app may let you pay, rate, and tip for your ride — all from within the notification.

Finally, Critical Alerts are a new kind of notification intended for extremely urgent alerts. These need to be given explicit user permission to work and are intended to alert wearers to things such as heart rate anomalies or diabetes-related blood sugar warnings.

Siri gets lots better

The updated Siri watch face is a great illustration to show how much smarter Siri has become across all Apple platforms.

Siri will use the watch to provide the wearer with a host of additional predictive and proactive shortcuts throughout the day “… based on routines, locations and information such as heart rate after a workout, commute time with Maps at the appropriate time of day, or sports scores for a favorite team.”

What makes this even more interesting is that it will now show actionable content from third-party apps, which is great for consumer and specialized enterprise apps.

Siri Shortcuts also makes it to the new Apple Watch OS.

Apple is pushing developers to ensure the Apple Watch shortcuts they provide are to the most relevant tasks. The basis for deciding this might be time, location, or app utility (a recipe app may provide a recipe of the day, for example).

What Apple sees as critical is that these notifications are interacted with and truly represent what Apple Watch users need.

App developers need to note that when Siri decides which Shortcuts it will offer on the Siri Watchface, Siri will pay particular attention to how the user has interacted with your app in the past.

Also, you don’t need to say “Hey, Siri” to activate the assistant. All you need to do is start speaking to Siri as you raise the Watch towards you.

The intention is that you will be able to use Siri to get essential tasks done from your Watch, and you will be able to explore new ways to enhance customer and employee experiences when using your app.

The tiny web

Do you remember how Steve Jobs — when announcing the original iPhone — boasted that the iPhone offered people access to the real internet, rather than some stripped-down version?

watchOS 5 brings a little of that same delight and now integrates WebKit support, which means you can use your watch to glance at things such as web links or other items sent to you.

You can control the content, too:

  • Turn the Digitial Crown to scroll the page.
  • Double-tap to zoom in and out.
  • Use Force Touch (a firm press) to invoke back and forward buttons you can use to navigate through your viewing history.

It’s not perfect — you can’t access video playback or web fonts, though you can use your Watch to fill in HTML-based forms. Apple will render pages in Reader Mode when that mode is available.

All the same, some people will wonder if web designers will now need to figure out how to design websites that scale all the way from a Watch to a 30-inch display.

Health and wellness

There are lots of workout improvements in Apple Watch, including auto-workout detection. Not only does your Watch figure out when you are exercising, but it will also terminate a workout once it detects the activity is over. New yoga and hiking workouts and helpful tools for runners makes the device even more useful as part of your general scheme to stay well. And Activity Sharing competitions let you invite others to compete in meeting those activity challenges.

Additional improvements

Control Center lets you put all your toggles in the order you most prefer. You can also get to Notifications and/or Control Center while in any app.

Apple Watch users will gain a new Podcasts app. This will sync with shows, as well as stream any new shows Siri can find on your behalf. Enterprise users and developers will need to know that Apple will now allow audio from third-party apps to sync to the watch for offline playback.

 

 

 

 

Source: Computer World

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GOOGLE NEVER REALLY LEFT CHINA: A LOOK AT THE CHINESE WEBSITE GOOGLE’S BEEN QUIETLY RUNNING

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More information is leaking out about just how Google is planning to re-enter the Chinese market with a mobile search engine application that complies to the country’s censorship laws.

The Intercept first broke this story when a whistleblower provided them documentation detailing the secret censored search project (codenamed Dragonfly). According to them, an overlooked Google acquisition from 2008 — 265.com — has been quietly laying down the foundation for the endeavor.

In order to run a business in China, tech companies are required to obtain a Internet Content Provider license from the Chinese government. As it’s difficult for foreign businesses to obtain this license, Google has long partnered with Chinese IT company Ganji.com. Back in the early years of Google.cn, Google actually operated directly off of Ganji.com’s license, even claiming the Chinese company was temporarily running its search engine. Facing intense scrutiny from the Chinese government and the media over this license arrangement, in 2007 Google formed a legitimate joint venture company with Ganji.com — the Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co.

Because of the necessity of that license, Google has maintained that joint venture and has been operating in China under the name Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. ever since. Even after the shut down of Google.cn, Google’s Chinese advertising enterprise has been operating under the joint venture company as well as, low and behold, 265.com. A whois search of the 265.com domain name, which provides a record of the current domain registrant information, pulls up Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. as the registrant organization.

A significant number of Google employees are reportedly none too happy about Google’s project complying with Chinese censorship laws. This most recent news, that the company has long been collecting data for a moment just like this, surely won’t make morale among these workers any better.

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WHISTLEBLOWER REVEALS GOOGLE’S PLANS FOR CENSORED SEARCH IN CHINA

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Google is reportedly planning to relaunch its search engine in China, complete with censored results to meet the demands of the Chinese government. The company originally shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010, citing government attempts to “limit free speech on the web.” But according to a report from The Interceptthe US tech giant now wants to return to the world’s biggest single market for internet users.

According to internal documents provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename “Dragonfly” since the beginning of 2017. The search engine is being built as an Android mobile app and will reportedly “blacklist sensitive queries” and filter out all websites blocked by China’s web censors (including Wikipedia and BBC News). The censorship will extend to Google’s image search, spell check, and suggested search features.

The web is heavily censored in China, with the country’s so-called Great Firewall stopping citizens from accessing many sites. Information on topics like religion, police brutality, freedom of speech, and democracy are heavily filtered, while specific search topics (like the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and Taiwanese independence) are censored completely. Advocacy groups report that censorship in the country has increased under President Xi Jinping, extending beyond the web to social media and chat apps.

The whistleblower who spoke to The Intercept said they did so because they were “against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people.” They also suggested that “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”

Patrick Poon, a researcher with Amnesty International, agreed with this assessment. Poon told The Intercept that if Google launches a censored version of its search engine in China it will “set a terrible precedent” for other companies. “The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government — it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more,” said Poon.

In a statement given to The Verge, a spokesperson said: “We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”

According to The Intercept, Google faces a number of substantial barriers before it can launch its new search app in China, including approval from officials in Beijing and “confidence within Google” that the app will be better than its main rival in China, Baidu.

Google previously offered a censored version of its search engine in China between 2006 and 2010, before pulling out of the country after facing criticism in the US. (Politicians said the company was acting as a “functionary of the Chinese government.”) In recent months, though, the company has been attempting to reintegrate itself into the Chinese commercial market. It launched an AI research lab in Beijing last December, a mobile file management app in January, and an AI-powered doodle game just last month.

Although this suggests Google is eager to get a slice of China’s huge market of some 750 million web users, ambitions to relaunch its search engine may yet go nowhere. Reports in past years of plans to bring the Google Play mobile store to China, for example, have so far come to nothing, and Google regularly plans out projects it ultimately rejects.

Notably, relations between China and the US have worsened in recent weeks due to trade tariffs imposed by President Trump. The Interceptreports that despite this Google staff have been told to be ready to launch the app at short notice. The company’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, reportedly told employees last month that they must be prepared in case “suddenly the world changes or [President Trump] decides his new best friend is Xi Jinping.”

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GOOGLE MAKES $550M STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN CHINESE E-COMMERCE FIRM JD.COM

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Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com, which will see Google purchase $550 million worth of shares in the Chinese firm.

Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, data and marketing to produce new kinds of online retail.

Initially, that will see the duo team up to offer JD.com products for sale on the Google Shopping platform across the word, but it seems clear that the companies have other collaborations in mind for the future.

JD.com is valued at around $60 billion, based on its NASDAQ share price, and the company has partnerships with the likes of Walmart and it has invested heavily in automated warehouse technology, drones and other “next-generation” retail and logistics.

The move for a distribution platform like Google to back a service provider like JD.com is interesting since the company, through search and advertising, has relationships with a range of e-commerce firms, including JD.com’s arch rival Alibaba.

But it is a sign of the times for Google, which has already developed relationships with JD.com and its biggest backer Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant. All three companies have backed Go-Jek, the ride-hailing challenger in Southeast Asia, while Tencent and Google previously inked a patent-sharing partnership and have co-invested in startups such as Chinese AI startup XtalPi.

 

 

Source: Tech Crunch.

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