Retail

Google Tracker: Toeing The Line And Stirring The Pot

Google is really taking control of its own destiny this week. It made moves to appease the European regulators who slapped it with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine over the summer, took a stand against hackers on behalf of high-profile, at-risk users and even revealed plans for its own video speaker device à la Amazon’s Echo Show. Plus: What’s in store at tomorrow’s big hardware event?

The Price Is (Hopefully) Right

To appease European antitrust regulators and avoid any further fines, Google is reportedly turning its Google Shopping service into an independent unit within the company. The new service will have to bid against other shopping destinations for ad placement in Google search results.

Regulators slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine after allegations that the company had been giving precedence to its own shopping service in search results, to the detriment of other paying businesses whose ads were appearing lower in the search rankings. The European Commission did not think Google’s initial offer to let rivals bid for spots on the Product Listing Ads section went far enough. Critics said rather than creating a fair playing ground, the proposal would have created additional anti-competitive barriers for companies that could not afford the auction price.

Is There An Echo In Here?

At first, it was a mystery as to why Google decided to no longer support YouTube video playback on Amazon’s Echo Show device — a move that allegedly caught Amazon by surprise, though Google said it had been in negotiations with the eCommerce platform for some time regarding terms of service violations. However, it soon became clear that Google’s discontinued support for the Echo Show was to pave the way for its own Echo Show-like device, code-named “Manhattan.”

The Manhattan device will reportedly offer YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling, sources confirmed. It will also enable users to control their connected home devices such as the smart thermostat by Nest, an Alphabet subsidiary. Google may be putting a rush on project Manhattan due to pressure from competitors, with Apple’s HomePod slated to launch soon and, now, new Echo devices from Amazon also on the horizon. Sources indicated the Google video device would hit the market earlier than mid-2018, which was the initial target for launch.

Defensive Stance

This month, Google will be rolling out its Advanced Protection Program to shield users of its email and other account services from hackers. One of the new tools will reportedly block third-party apps from accessing data through a user’s email or Google Drive files. With the new security program, two-factor authentication will no longer be necessary. The upgrade primarily targets corporate executives, politicians and other high-profile individuals who have high security concerns. This action by Google comes close on the heels of major security headlines during and following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including possible Russian interference in the campaigns and a leak of insider emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign, which may have damaged her chances of victory.

What To Expect From Tomorrow’s Hardware Event

Google’s big annual hardware event is coming up Wednesday (Oct. 4). What’s on the docket? Obviously, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will be big reveals, with some bigger, better features — or, perhaps we should call them “extra large” features — for the Pixel 2 XL. The design is supposed to be nearly bezel-less with a QHD screen made of new, tougher Gorilla Glass 5 and squeezable sides that can be used to trigger actions such as waking the Google Assistant. The device is also supposed to be dust- and water-resistant with a new electronic sim slot. Both the front and rear camera are reported to feature optical image stabilization.

In addition, look for a possible Echo Dot competitor — a smaller, $50-ish mini version of the Google Home — as well as potential upgrades to the full-sized Home. There are also talks of resurrecting the Pixel Chromebook. Finally, there will likely be updates on the Google Assistant and related hardware, as well as the company’s ARKit equivalent for Android, ARCore.

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