Google launches new phones, speakers in hardware push

A Google employee holds up a Google Pixel 2 XL phone at a Google event at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Updated 04 October 2017
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Google launches new phones, speakers in hardware push

SAN FRANCISCO,US: Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday unveiled the second generation of its Pixel smartphone along with new voice-enabled home speakers, redoubling its commitment to the hardware business as it competes with a surge in devices from Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
The new devices, which include a Pixelbook laptop, wireless earbuds and a small GoPro-like camera, showcase Google-developed operating systems and services, notably the voice assistant. That means usage of those devices should stoke the company’s core ad sales business as buyers of the hardware use Google services like search and maps.
The Pixel 2 smartphone comes in two sizes, with comparable features, including aluminum bodies and no traditional jacks for headphones. Prices for the base model start at $649, while the high-end version starts at $849. The phones will be available Oct. 19.
Pixelbook, priced at $999, is the first laptop powered by Google Assistant and will support Snap Inc’s Snapchat, the company said. It would be available in stores from Oct. 31.
Google Home Mini, the new speaker, is priced at $49 in the United States and would rival Amazon.com Inc’s popular Echo Dot. It will be available by the end of the year.
The Pixel debuted a year ago, with analysts estimating sales of more than 2 million, pushing Google to record amounts of non-advertising revenue. Google’s “other” revenue category, which includes both hardware and sales of online storage services, accounted for about 12 percent of overall sales in its most recent quarter.
Last month, Google expanded its hardware development capabilities by picking up a 2,000-person smartphone engineering team at HTC for $1.1 billion.
Still, Google has a large gulf to cross before matching the 215 million iPhones sold by Apple in the last four quarters.


Mars rover still silent as red planet dust storm goes global

This composite image made from a series of June 15, 2018 photos shows a self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in the Gale Crater. (AP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Mars rover still silent as red planet dust storm goes global

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A dust storm at Mars is now global, keeping NASA’s Opportunity rover out of touch with Earth.
Flight controllers lost contact with the rover more than a week ago. At the time, the dust storm covered one-fourth of Mars. NASA said Wednesday the storm now encircles the red planet, with only tall volcano peaks and the poles exposed to the sun.
Without sunlight, the solar-powered Opportunity can only hunker down and wait for the sky to clear.
NASA’s nuclear-powered rover Curiosity is unaffected and is studying the extreme weather conditions. Mars hasn’t seen a storm like this since 2007.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, say they remain optimistic Opportunity can survive. The rover has been exploring Mars since 2004.