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Google unveiled a massive strategic shift on Tuesday, announcing that it is officially getting into the business of designing and releasing its own smartphones. The Pixel and Pixel XL, announced at a special event in San Francisco, are the company’s first forays into that market after working with outside manufacturers for several years to produce its Nexus line of devices.

The phones are snazzy gizmos packed with some of the latest features that Google could come up with, like a new intelligent assistant and a high-quality camera. It feels like one of the best Android smartphones on the market and could be a serious contender to take on Apple’s iPhone, especially for people looking to purchase a flagship smartphone.

Google’s launch answered a lot of questions that were floating around after details had leaked over several weeks. But so far the company has been quiet about how the new devices and features will work in enterprises. Here are the five key questions about Pixel phones for business:

How does the Google Assistant interact with device management software?

One of the biggest selling points of the Pixel is the new Google Assistant built into the device. It’s designed to provide people with a personalized search experience, based on the power of Google’s knowledge graph and integrations with partners. The assistant can help users do things like book dinner reservations, summon a car and, of course, search the web.

Google has a deep bench of partner integrations designed to bring features and information from different services into the Google Assistant. In some cases they don’t even require users to have the corresponding applications installed.

But how does that work in an environment where IT has strong opinions about which services should be used for business purposes and data? Google isn’t saying yet.

A help page for Google Now, the precursor to the Assistant, says it is disabled by default when used with a paid Google Cloud account. IT administrators can reinstate access to Google Now, but it’s not clear how much control they will have over what features and integrations users can access.

Will enterprises be able to build private extensions for the Assistant?

If enterprises can embrace the assistant, the next question is whether they’ll be able to build private integrations that work only with phones inside their organization. Giving employees phones that can provide them with enterprise data along with consumer features could be very powerful.

Google already does some of that with its Springboard app for paid users of G Suite, which is designed to help surface important files and facts from an organization’s stored files. By integrating Springboard with the Assistant, Google could provide interesting business functionality.

Does Google have any plans to sell Pixel phones to enterprises?

While Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 was first pitched to consumers, the company quickly got into the business of working with partners to sell it as a business device. The Surface Enterprise Initiative has more than 10,000 partners selling Microsoft tablets to companies, and Microsoft continues to pour resources into it. The Pixel seems well-suited to receive similar treatment, especially as Google continues to build out its enterprise-focused business.

The company is working to push its G Suite productivity tools for enterprises, and it would seem like selling Pixel phones alongside those would make a ton of sense. But Google hasn’t said anything about its enterprise plans for the phone.

What’s not yet clear is how much control IT managers will have over the automatic updates. Google already allows companies using mobile device management software to control when updates get installed and whether users are notified of updates when they’re available. It seems likely Google would offer the same for the Pixel, but Google hasn’t said how device management features would work with the new update functionality.

Will 24/7 chat support for these devices increase or decrease enterprise appeal?

The other marquee feature for consumers is 24/7 chat support, which gives them an easy path to help. This seems like it would come in handy for helping employees when the IT helpdesk isn’t available, but it also presents a security problem.

Google’s support representatives can use screen-sharing built into the Pixel to see what’s going on with users’ devices. For those people who have sensitive company data on their Pixels, that could be an issue. Google hasn’t said whether administrators will be able to disable live chat, turn off the screen-sharing feature, block screen sharing of enterprise apps, or some combination of management features.

Still, the company has some time to answer all these questions. The phone was first made available for pre-order on Tuesday, but won’t be available at retail until Oct. 20.

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Rim’s Blackpad Tablet: Five Questions About The Rumored Device

Research in Motion may launch a 7-inch tablet device as early as Monday that has no 3G connectivity and an entirely new operating system, according to reports. Rumblings about a BlackBerry tablet have been circulating for months, but very few device details have leaked. The information that has leaked has remained surprisingly consistent such as the lack of 3G connectivity and a new OS for the device. The screen size has been up for debate, with some saying the device will have a 7-inch display while others saying 9.7 inches.

Whatever the screen size, the tablet – also known as the BlackPad – may be announced during RIM’s Blackberry Developer Conference that starts Monday in San Francisco, according to the Wall Street Journal .

As we get ready for a rumored BlackPad launch here are 5 things I’m wondering about the new device.

To 3G or not to 3G? That is the question.

The so-called BlackPad reportedly won’t have a built-in 3G antenna. Instead, you’ll have to tether your BlackBerry handset to the tablet for cellular data service. The Journal also says the BlackPad will include Bluetooth connectivity and a “broadband connection,” which probably means the tablet will have Wi-Fi.

While adding tethering capability is a nice idea, it seems strange not to include a 3G option for the rumored BlackPad. Apple’s iPad has Wi-Fi only and 3G + Wi-Fi options. The forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab will launch as a 3G + Wi-Fi device, with a Wi-Fi only version to follow shortly thereafter. The hassle of having to tether your tablet to your handset may make the rumored BlackPad a nonstarter for many users.

Not running Blackberry 6, OS, really?

A persistent rumor circulating since at least August is that the BlackPad wouldn’t be running Blackberry 6. Instead, the device would run a tablet-specific OS based on QNX software. QNX, acquired by RIM in April, makes embedded operating systems for a variety of products such as cars, medical equipment and unmanned aircraft control systems.

It’s not clear why RIM would give up on Blackberry 6 after launching the new OS with much hoopla in New York this summer. JavaWorld speculated in August that RIM may have wanted a fresh start with the BlackPad since the BlackBerry OS may contain a lot of legacy code making it less adaptable and stable. The Journal says RIM will eventually be moving its BlackBerry handsets to QNX software as well.

What will the OS do?

Since this is a RIM device, you have to wonder if the BlackPad will be primarily focused on enterprise customers. RIM’s main business is all about supporting government and corporate customers that depend on BlackBerrys for secure e-mail and wireless communication.

That being said, RIM has been adding more functionality to attract individual users. The touch-based interface for BlackBerry 6 devices is a huge improvement over RIM’s bizarre SurePress technology. BlackBerry 6 also has an improved Web browser based on the WebKit browser engine and an overhauled multimedia player for your music.

But with RIM’s focus on business, how many regular consumer options would the BlackPad include? What would the multimedia capabilities be like for video and music playback, and what about purchasing content for your device? The Journal says RIM is working with Amazon to produce a music application for BlackBerry. Would that show up on the BlackPad? What about improvements to the gaming selection at App World, the third-party applications store for BlackBerry devices.

How many cameras?

The Journal says the BlackPad will come with either one or two cameras. Presumably, this means the device will most likely have a rear-facing camera but it’s not clear whether it would also get a front-facing camera for video chat. If it had launched a year ago RIM may have been able to get away with not putting a front-facing camera on the rumored BlackPad. But front-facing cameras are quickly becoming standard parts of new mobile devices.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab has two cameras, and there are rumors the iPad 2 will add a front-facing camera. Many new mobile handsets are now sporting front-facing cameras such as the iPhone 4, new iPod Touch, Sprint EVO 4G and the Dell Streak. Hopefully, the BlackPad will include video chat capabilities as well.

How will you buy the thing and for how much?

If there’s no 3G connection, and presumably cellular contract, will you be able to buy the BlackPad independent of the cellular carriers? Since it’s a BlackBerry companion device, it would make a lot of sense to buy it through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. But will you be able to buy the BlackPad as a standalone device right next to the iPad at Best Buy? If carriers are selling the device exclusively, will the BlackPad come with any restrictions? For example, will you have to pay extra to tether the rumored BlackPad with your BlackBerry device, as you do to tether the iPhone on AT&T?

Finally, how much will this device cost? Since the BlackPad reportedly comes without a 3G antenna, you would think it would be priced nearer to the Wi-Fi only iPad’s $499 price tag. As opposed to the Galaxy Tab’s unlocked price that is estimated to be $700 or more. Of course, pricing also depends on how much onboard storage the device will have, whether it would support external memory cards and any other hardware options the device may include.

The rumored BlackPad could be an appealing device, but we’ll have to wait until early next week to see what RIM has planned.

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Google’s New Search Quality Guidelines

A must-read for anyone responsible for SEO or Content Marketing

Importance: [rating=5] For all Webmasters, SEO Consultants, Content Producers and Web Designers

Recommended link: Google’s new Search Quality Rating Guideline

Yesterday (November 19th 2024), we saw the release of an updated ‘full’ 160(!) page version of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines. Here’s a sample:

With the adoption of Mobile Devices influencing the search landscape more and more, Google have decided to update its guidelines for Search Quality Raters.

This is big news since Google used to previously to keep these ‘behind closed doors’, but occasionally one would escape into the wild and be dissected. Back in 2013 Google published an abridged version as they looked to “provide transparency on how Google works” after previous leaks of the document in 2008, 2011 and 2012, then in 2014. However, as the use of mobile has rocketed, the need for a “Major” revision of the guidelines was deemed a necessity.

Although this is the full version, this is not the definitive version. Mimi Underwood, Senior Program Manager for Search Growth & Analysis stated:

“The guidelines will continue to evolve as search, and how people use it, changes. We won’t be updating the public document with every change, but we will try to publish big changes to the guidelines periodically.”

So, if you work in search we suggest you download a copy now before people change their mind.

What are the Search Quality Guidelines?

In short, it is a document that will help webmasters and people alike, understand what Google looks for in web pages and what it takes to top the search rankings.

They work this out by using Google’s Search Quality Evaluators (third-party people hired by Google via a third-party agency to rate the search results) to measure a site’s Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, allowing Google to better understand what users want.

Why is it important?

Referring back to the ‘What is it?’ section, it helps you to understand better what it takes to top the search rankings.

And whilst it doesn’t necessarily define the ranking algorithm, it provides you with an insight into what Google are looking for, which, as an SEO Professional, Webmaster, even Website Designer is invaluable information.

How is it structured?

If you’ve read previous incarnations (excluding those who have had a peek at the leaked 2014 version) you’ll see a completely new structure, which has been rewritten from the ground up.

Looking at the monstrous contents page, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, however it’s relatively simple to follow. The first section is the General Guidelines Overview (Pages 4-6), highlighting topics such as the purpose of Search Quality rating, Browser requirements, Ad Blocking extensions, Internet Safety etc.

This is followed by the Page Quality Rating Guidelines (Pages 7-65), which discusses at great detail what Page Quality entails, providing examples of High Expertise, Authority and Trustworthy pages along with the middle tier and lowest tiers. Something interesting about this section is the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL), which discusses pages that could “potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of users”.

The next section looks at Understanding Mobile User Needs (pages 67-86), there is a large emphasis on this part of the report as it is one of the key reasons behind the update. This Brand new section highlights the multiple issues that cause trouble on websites when viewed on a mobile device.

Another new section is the Needs Met Rating Guideline (87-149), which is one of the new ratings for webmasters to determine the quality of the site. It refers to mobile searcher’s needs and questions “how helpful and satisfying the result is for the mobile user?”.

The final section discusses Using the Evaluation platform for the Google Search Quality Evaluators (pages 152-158). It shows the process the Evaluators had to undergo, whilst reporting to google.

Recommended sections

Here’s our analysis of the sections of the parts I felt were critical to read – there’s a lot, and you may think differently!

The sections recommended in the Page Quality Rating (pages 7-65) are:

2.2 What is the purpose of a Webpage? (page 8)

2.3 Your Money Your Life (page 9)

2.6 Website Maintenance (page 15)

2.7 Website Reputation (page 16)

3.0 Overall Page Quality Rating Scale (page 19)

5.0 High-Quality Pages (page 19-23)

7.0 Page Quality Rating: Important Considerations (page 58-59)

11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs (page 65)

The entire Mobile User Needs (pages 67-86) is worth a scan at the very least.

Needs Met Rating (pages 87-149).

13.0 Rating Using the Needs Met Scale (page 87)

13.1 Rating Result Blocks: Block Content and Landing Pages (page 87)

13.2 Fully Meets (FullyM) (page 90)

13.4 Moderately Meets (MM) (page 107)

13.6 Fails to Meet (FailsM) (page 112)

14.6 Hard to Use Flag (page 127)

15.0 The Relationship between E-A-T and Needs Met (page 130)

18.0 Needs Met Rating and Freshness (page 141)

19.0 Misspelled and Mistyped Queries and Results (page 143)

20.0 Non-fully Meets Results for URL Queries (page 146)

21.0 Product Queries: Action (Do) vs Information (Know) Intent (page 148)

22.0 Rating Visit-in-Person Intent Queries (page 149)

For a more of an in-depth overview, check out Jennifer Slegg’s post at thesempost.

How To Use Google’s New Continued Conversation Option

With Continued Conversation enabled, you only need to say “Hey, Google” one time to activate the device. Afterward, you can continue to ask the assistant to complete tasks without repeating the phrase.

The app will continue listening for eight seconds before turning off completely. To avoid unwanted listening, say “Thank you,” “Thanks, Google,” or “I’m done.” Those phrases will shut it down immediately. If you forget to do that, after the eight seconds have elapsed, the app deletes any recording it may have made.

As of this writing, the Continued Conversation option is only available in the United States and in English.

Enable Continued Conversation Option

To enable Continued Conversation on your Google Home device:

1. Open the Google home app on your phone.

2. In the top-left corner tap the three horizontal lines and verify that you are using the correct email account for your home devices.

3. Select “Continued Conversation.”

4. Turn on the switch.

5. All your Google home devices are now able to use Continued Conversation.

Guarding Your Privacy

When you have a conversation with the Google Assistant on a Home device, lights on the device indicate it is listening. If you do not shut down your device’s ability to record by using one of the key phrases, it will continue monitoring and recording for eight seconds. Then the lights will turn off, and the device is no longer active. Again, the app will delete anything recorded while it waited.

You can also set the app to alert you when the device has stopped listening by following these steps in Google home:

1. Tap the “Devices” tab.

2. Select the device you want to give the end of conversation notification.

3. Access “Settings.”

5. Activate the ability to play end sounds.

6. Choose the sound you want to use, and the app will beep to announce that it is no longer listening to you.

If you are worried about what has been saved by the device, you can view and edit your account activity:

1. Tap the “Explore” icon that looks like a compass in the upper-right corner of the app screen.

2. Tap the three dots and select “My Activity.”

Continued Conversation on Your Phone

If you don’t have Google Home devices, you can still use the continued conversation option on your phone with Google Assistant:

1. Open Google Assistant.

2. Tap the “Explore” icon.

3. Select “Settings.”

4. Under Preferences, select “Continued Conversation.”

Enabling an end sound does not work on the phone version of Assistant.

When Won’t Continued Conversation Work?

There are times when Continued Conversation does not work. If you are on a phone call, it will only listen to your first command, so it will not record any further conversation. If an alarm goes off, Continued Conversation will end. Also, anytime you are listening to music, it will only accept one command at a time.

While you can tick off multiple to-do items in one sitting, remember to use correct phrasing for the tasks you are trying to complete. You cannot, for example, ask Google to add spinach to your shopping list and then come back and just say, “milk.” It won’t remember that you were adding items to your list, so you need to repeat the command, “Add milk to my shopping list.”

Hopefully, this will help you use your Google assistant more efficiently without the constant repeating of the trigger phrase.

Tracey Rosenberger

Tracey Rosenberger spent 26 years teaching elementary students, using technology to enhance learning. Now she’s excited to share helpful technology with teachers and everyone else who sees tech as intimidating.

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Google Answers Pressing Questions About Mobile

With the launch of Google’s mobile-friendly update fast approaching, it should come as no surprise that it’s hot on every webmasters mind.

Nowhere was this more evident than in a Google+ Webmaster Hangout this week, which was specifically dedicated to discussing the mobile-friendly algorithm.

Coming out of the Hangout, we now have more details about the upcoming algorithm update which should help clear up some of the questions you may have as well.

Full Rollout May Take Up to a Week

Contrary to what many were led to believe when the algorithm update was initially announced, the rollout will not be happening all at once. In fact, it may take up to a week for it to fully roll out.

So the key takeaway here is, monitor your traffic starting April 21st, but don’t become too alarmed right away because nothing is set in stone until the rollout is completed.

Your Site is Either Mobile-Friendly, or it’s Not

Mobile-friendliness is not ranked on a scale — your site is either mobile friendly, or it isn’t. Your site has to fully pass Google’s criteria in order to be considered mobile-friendly.

To see if your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, you can check using this testing tool. Alternatively, you can also use another method listed below.

Want to Be Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly? Google Yourself

Use your smartphone to look up your site in Google search. If you see the gray “mobile-friendly” label next to your site, then you’re good. If you don’t see that label then you have some work to do before April 21st.

Mistakes to Avoid When Going Mobile Friendly

In case you missed it, earlier this week Google published a list of top mistakes websites make when going mobile-friendly, and how to avoid them.

Be sure to check out this post for even more guidance on how to brace yourself for what’s shaping up to be one of the most significant updates in recent memory.

All The Questions You Had About Climate Models But Were Afraid To Ask

Climate scientists tell us it’s going to get hotter. How much it rains and where it rains is likely to shift. Sea-level rise is apt to accelerate. Oceans are on their way to becoming more acidic and less oxygenated. Floods, droughts, storms and other extreme weather events are projected to change in frequency or intensity.

But how do they know what they know?

For climate scientists, numerical models are the tools of the trade. But for the layperson — and even for scientists in other fields — climate models can seem mysterious. What does “numerical” even mean? Do climate models take other things besides the atmosphere into account? How do scientists know if a model is any good?

Two experts in climate modeling, Andrew Gettelman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Richard Rood of the University of Michigan, have your answers and more, free of charge. In a new open-access book, Demystifying Climate Models, the pair lay out the fundamentals. In 282 pages, the scientists explain the basics of climate science, how that science is translated into a climate model, and what those models can tell us (as well as what they can’t) — all without using a single equation.

AtmosNews sat down with Gettelman to learn more about the book, which anyone can download here.

Climate models divide the world into a 3D grid. Scientists evaluate the effect of solar radiation, water surface temperatures, carbon pollution and other variables in each cell. Wikipedia

What was the motivation to write this book?

There isn’t really another book that sets out the philosophy and structure of models. There are textbooks, but inside you’ll find a lot of physics and chemistry: information about momentum equations, turbulent fluxes — which is useful if you want to build your own model.

And then there are books on climate change for the layperson, and they devote maybe a paragraph to climate modeling. There’s not much in the middle.

This book provides an introduction for the beginning grad student, or someone in another field who is interested in using model output, or anyone who is just curious how climate works and how we simulate it.

What are some of the biggest misperceptions about climate models that you hear?

One is that people say climate models are based on uncertain science. But that’s not true at all. If we didn’t know the science, my cellphone wouldn’t work. Radios wouldn’t work. GPS wouldn’t work.

That’s because the energy that warms the Earth, which radiates from the Sun, and is absorbed and re-emitted by Earth’s surface — and also by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — is part of the same spectrum of radiation that makes up radio waves. If we didn’t understand electromagnetic waves, we couldn’t have created the technology we rely on today. The same is true for the science that underlies other aspects of climate models.

Greenhouse gasses reflect infrared radiation back to Earth. Environmental Protection Agency

But we don’t understand everything, right?

We have understood the basic physics for hundreds of years. The last piece of it, the discovery that carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere, was put in place in the late 19th, early 20th century. Everything else — the laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics — was all worked out between the 17th and 19th centuries.

We do still have uncertainty in our modeling systems. A big part of this book is about how scientists understand that uncertainty and actually embrace it as part of their work. If you know what you don’t know and why, you can use that to better understand the whole climate system.

Can we ever eliminate the uncertainty?

Not entirely. In our book, we break down uncertainty into three categories: model uncertainty (How good are the models at reflecting how the Earth really works?), initial condition uncertainty (How well do we understand what the Earth system looks like right now?), and scenario uncertainty (What will future emissions look like?)

To better understand, it might help to think about the uncertainty that would be involved if you had a computer model that could simulate making a pizza. Instead of trying to figure out what Earth’s climate would look like in 50 or 100 years, this model would predict what your pizza would look like when it was done.

The Earth’s climate is like a delicious pizza. Pixabay

The first thing you want to know is how well the model reflects the reality of how a pizza is made. For example, does the model take into account all the ingredients you need to make the pizza, and how they will each evolve? The cheese melts, the dough rises and the pepperoni shrinks. How well can the model approximate each of those processes? This is model uncertainty.

The second thing you’d want to know is if you can input all the pizza’s “initial conditions” into the model. Some initial conditions — like how many pepperoni slices are on the pizza and where — are easy to observe, but others are not.

For example, kneading the pizza dough creates small pockets of air, but you don’t know exactly where they are. When the dough is heated, the air expands and forms big bubbles in the crust. If you can’t tell the model where the air pockets are, it can’t accurately predict where the crust bubbles will form when the pizza is baked.

The same is true for a climate model. Some parts of the Earth, like the deep oceans and the polar regions, are not easy to observe with enough detail, leaving scientists to estimate what the conditions there are like and leading to the second type of uncertainty in the model results.

Finally, the pizza-baking model also has to deal with “scenario uncertainty,” because it doesn’t know how long the person baking the pizza will keep it in the oven, or at what temperature. Without understanding the choices the human will make, the model can’t say for sure if the dough will be soft, crispy or burnt.

With climate models, over long periods of time, like a century, we’ve found that this scenario uncertainty is actually the dominant one. In other words, we don’t know how much carbon dioxide humans around the world going to emit in the years and decades to come, and it turns out that that’s what matters most.

Climate change is making tropical cyclones more powerful. Pixabay

Any other misperceptions you frequently hear?

People always say, “If we can’t predict the weather next week, how can we know what the climate will be like in 50 years?”

Generally speaking, we can’t perfectly predict the weather because we don’t have a full understanding of all the current conditions. We don’t have observations for every grid point on a weather model or for large parts of the ocean, for example.

But climate is not concerned about the exact weather on a particular day 50 or 100 years from now. Climate is the statistical distribution of weather, not a particular point on that distribution. Climate prediction is focused on the statistics of this distribution, and that is governed by conservation of energy and mass on long time scales, something we do understand.

Did you learn anything about climate modeling while working on the book?

My background is the atmosphere. I sat down and wrote the whole section on the atmosphere in practically one sitting. But I had to learn about the other aspects of models, the ocean and the land, which work really differently. The atmosphere has only one boundary, a bottom boundary. We just have to worry about how it interacts with mountains and other bumps on the surface.

But the ocean has three hard boundaries: the bottom and the sides, like a giant rough bathtub. It also has a boundary with the atmosphere on the top. Those boundaries really change how the ocean moves. And the land is completely different because it doesn’t move at all. Writing this book really gave me a new appreciation for some of the subtleties of other parts of the Earth System and the ways my colleagues model them.

What was the most fun part of writing the book for you?

I think having to force myself to think in terms of analogies that are understandable to a variety of people. I can describe a model using a whole bunch of words most people don’t use every day, like “flux.” It was a fun challenge to come up with words that would accurately describe the models and the science but that were accessible to everyone.

AtmosNews reports on the work of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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