Google’s mysterious new “entertainment device”


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Google’s head of Android@Home, Joe Britt (right) showed off a prototype of the company’s new cloud entertainment device at its developers conference in May 2011.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The tech world is all abuzz about Google’s mysterious new “entertainment device.”

Nicknamed “Project Tungsten,” the device serves as a music hub that connects to speakers or a home stereo. Running Google’s Android operating system, the device can play digital music files stored online at Google Music or on assorted devices.

The device can be powered by a smartphone or tablet, and multiple devices can be linked to simultaneously play music on speakers throughout a house.

Google (GOOGFortune 500unveiled a prototype of the deviceat its I/O developers conference in San Francisco last May. Joe Britt, head of Google’s Android@Home connected device team, called the gadget “a totally new kind of Android device.”

Britt also demonstrated another Tungsten device that was able to read RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags embedded in CD cases. If a user had uploaded that CD to his or her Google Music digital locker, the device would automatically begin playing that album.

At the time, Google described the devices as concepts and not actual products. But Google filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission last week to test “an entertainment device” over home Wi-Fi networks. It was the first indication that Google is actually developing the product it showcased eight months earlier.

According to the filing with the FCC, Google’s device will be able to connect to stereo systems and other devices via Bluetooth. The application did not reveal any other specifics about the device.

Several media reports indicated that Motorola Mobility (MMI), the hardware company that Google is buying, is building the device. Google’s$12.5 billion purchase of the company is expected to be completed next week. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Becoming a maker of consumer devices pits Google even more squarely against Apple (AAPLFortune 500), which also sells connected entertainment devices that interoperate with its iPhone, iPad, iPod and Macintosh devices. To top of page

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iPad retains value longer than Kindle


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos surprises the crowd at the Kindle Fire announcement in September with a low $199 price tag.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos surprises the crowd at the Kindle Fire announcement in September with a low $199 price tag.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One year later, an iPad is typically worth about half its original retail price, stats say
  • But the Kindle is worth one-quarter to one-third of its original price, according to data
  • With Apple products, upgrading memory doesn’t retain much value

(CNN) — Technology is not like wine.

Electronics almost never gain value after they’ve been sitting around for a while, but some stand the test of time better than others.

As Apple is reportedly readying a third-generation iPad to be unveiled in the next month or so, owners of previous versions of the tablet may be contemplating a way to unload them for cash. Fortunate for them, the iPad can be resold for about half its original price a year or more after it hit the market, according to data from two popular online researchers that was compiled for CNN.

On the other hand, Amazon.com’s Kindle devices, which analysts say pose the greatest threat to Apple’s dominance in tablets, have not been as sought after in the secondary market.

The various Kindle e-readers generally are worth between 25% and 33% of their original price a year after their releases, according to data from electronics reseller Gazelle.

The iPad costs more than the Kindle, but the Apple tablet retains more of its value over time, according to data.
The iPad costs more than the Kindle, but the Apple tablet retains more of its value over time, according to data.

After a year, the Kindle’s value can sink even faster. The Kindle 3, a 2½-year-old product still being sold by Amazon for $139 under the name Kindle Keyboard, can be worth far less. On the secondary market, the Kindle Keyboard is worth about $16, according to data from Decide, a firm that researches electronics commerce.

Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment on these statistics. Likewise, an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

One might assume that because the iPad is more expensive than even the top-of-the-line Kindle ($499 to the Kindle Fire’s $199) that Apple’s tablet is likely to depreciate more quickly. But Kindles, on average, depreciate 22% faster than iPads, Gazelle executive Anthony Scarsella wrote in an e-mail.

Kindle Fire: Good, but no iPad killer

2011: Apple launches iPad 2

How the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s first touch-screen tablet computer, will fare in the resale market is unclear. It is only 4 months old.

But Amazon is expected to continue with its strategy of regularly releasing improved models at drastically reduced prices. Apple typically releases improved models at the same price as their predecessors for phones, tablets, computers and iPods, which can help previous versions retain more of their value over time.

“Kindle’s frequent price drops combined with multiple models now available heavily contribute to its reduced Gazelle value,” Scarsella wrote. “Similar to what you see in Andriod phones (lots of model updates and frequent price drop) compared to iPhone (few models, stable pricing), the iPhone holds about 60% of its value one year after launch while even the best Androids only hold about 40%.”

Indeed, another firm called Priceonomics reported similar resale-value discrepancies for the iPhone and ones that use the rival Android software from Google.

However, some types of Apple gadgets are less wise investments for gear heads who like to resell their wares in exchange for newer models. Paying an extra $100 or $200 for double or triple the storage space will never result in a decent payoff later, a Decide spokesman said in a statement.

Of course, pouring your money into gadgets may not be exactly the best financial strategy anyway.

Google gets new privacy policy


Frida Ghitis says online hoarding of our private information is not something we can afford to

Frida Ghitis says online hoarding of our private information is not something we can afford to “dismiss.”

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Google recently changed its privacy policy to consolidate user’s data
  • Frida Ghitis: if Americans paid more attention, they would be troubled by the new policy
  • Ghitis: Our private information belongs to us and nobody else — not to Google, not to Facebook
  • She says we should follow Europe’s example and call for changes in law

Editor’s note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of “The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television.”

(CNN) — If you use Google, and I know you do, you may have noticed a little banner popping up at the top of the page announcing: “We’re changing our privacy policy and terms.” It gives you the choice to “Learn More” or, another option, the one I’m betting most people followed, to “Dismiss.”

Who wants to read about what Google plans to do with all that information it has about us?

I, too, clicked “Dismiss.” That’s because the very idea of considering what Google knows about me can give me heartburn. And if that happens, I may want to Google “heartburn,” and then I’ll wonder if my insurance company will find out that I was searching “heartburn,” or, worse, that one day I will apply for a new insurance company and the side effects of having considered what Google knows will result in a denial of coverage. But I digress.

Frida Ghitis

Frida Ghitis

When Google announced its new policy, lovingly explaining its reason as “our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google,” the authorities in Europe immediately told the Internet leviathan to put off its March 1 start date until European Union officials had a chance to review Google’s new quest for beauty and simplicity.

Europeans, it turns out, are much less trusting of invasions of our electronic privacy than Americans are. Americans have an intense aversion to government intrusion. If the FBI wanted to examine Google searches, the left and the right would come together — the ACLU, Tea Party, liberals and libertarians would raise their fists together to fight for freedom of privacy. The Supreme Court would join in, as it did in the case of GPS surveillance, and conclude the people have a right to privacy, a right against any “unreasonable search,” as the Constitution says.

But in the case of Google’s latest move to consolidate user’s data, however, most Americans paid little attention.

MacKinnon: We’re losing control of our digital privacy

If Americans — or people anywhere — decided to take up Google’s offer to check out its new policy, they would discover something so troubling, so frightening, really, that it would override the national tendency to leave companies alone to make money how they see fit. At least in the case of companies such as Google — and now Facebook — which know more about us than even our closest friends.

Here’s what Google knows about you, what it stores right there on its servers, waiting for a hacker:

Google gets new privacy policy

Google has every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. It holds a record of every telephone conversation you had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert you’ve set up. It has your Google Calendar with all content going back as far as you’ve used it, including everything you’ve done every day since then. It knows your contact list with all the information you may have included about yourself and the people you know. It has your Picasa pictures, your news page configuration, indicating what topics you’re most interested in. And so on.

If you ever used Google while logged in to your account to search for a person, a symptom, a medical side effect, a political idea; if you ever gossiped using one of Google’s services, all of this is on Google’s servers. And thanks to the magic of Google’s algorithms, it is easy to sift through the information because Google search works like a charm. Google can even track searches on your computerwhen you’re not logged in for up to six months.

Facebook has even more interesting stuff: your pictures, your comments, your likes, your friends, your un-friends.

Andrew Keen: We must avoid Facebook’s ‘creepy’ cult of transparency

You’ve done it, said it, clicked it, searched it, Googled it. You can never undo it or unclick it. It stays there forever. Unless the people demand that government order a stop to it.

The European Commission has a new privacy proposal known as the “Right to be forgotten.” It would allow Internet users in 27 countries of the European Union to demand Internet companies delete their personal data.

Google’s famous motto is “do no evil.” I won’t accuse Google of deliberately doing evil. It has done much to improve our lives. It makes no secret of the fact that it seeks to make profits, which it richly deserves. I do believe, however, that it deliberately tries to deceive us when it claims the new privacy policy seeks “to provide you with as much transparency and choice as possible.”

I followed the instructions and with some difficulty eventually downloaded pages upon pages of personal material about myself from Google. What I was looking for was a simple, shall we say beautiful, button telling Google not to save anything I don’t explicitly want it to save. But there was no such button.

Google, like Facebook, owns trillions if not quadrillions-plus bits of information. They mine it, use it to sell ads, algorithm it. But my real fear is not Google. My real fear is that computer technology has turned into an arms race between good guys and bad guys. Google may see itself as a jaunty white hat wearer, valiantly protecting all our information. And it may be doing it to the best of its ability. But hackers are hard at work all the time.

Google and Facebook are profiting from our private information in ways most of us don’t quite understand or would approve. But hackers may do even worse, as we have already seen in many cases around the world. Hackers have already unlocked and put on the Web reams of credit card information, private documents and all sorts of personal e-mails. Imagine your e-mails and chats on the Web for anyone to read.

Online hoarding of our private information is not something we can afford to “dismiss.” The only effective way to change the ways of these giant corporations — and the smaller ones following the same practices — is by pushing the government to make those practices illegal. We can start by following Europe’s example.

The obvious, ethical, default setting should affirm that our private information belongs to us and nobody else — not to Google, not to Facebook. We should call for laws that require them to change their terms of service so users have the option of giving or denying permission to them on holding personal data in storage.