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Stick to your New Year’s resolutions with a little help from Google Home

Category: Google | Jan 11, 2018

In 2018, I’m committed to getting in better shape. As with all New Year’s resolutions, the hard part will be actually sticking to it. But this year, I’ll have help from my Google Assistant. No matter what your resolution is, here are a few ways your Google Home, Mini or Max can keep you on track:

  • Meet your fitness goals: Use your Google Home to play your workout playlist,, set alarms for working out, or cast workout videos from YouTube to your TV with Google Home and Chromecast. 
  • Get better sleep: Tune out noises from the apartment next door or help get your kids to bed by saying, “Hey Google, play white noise.” You can also set reminders to help you stick to a consistent bedtime. 
  • Explore new places: Try asking, “Hey Google, how much are flights to Rio de Janeiro in June?” or ask “Hey Google, what currency is used in Brazil?”
  • Find time to relax: Set an alarm for a 20-minute power nap or even do a short meditation by saying, “Hey Google, talk to Headspace.”
  • Stay in touch with family and friends: Never forget to call by setting a reminder, just say, “Hey Google, remind me to call Aunt Mary every Sunday.” You can even check in with loved ones by making hands-free calls while you’re multitasking. If you’re in the U.S. or Canada (911 calls not supported), just say “Hey Google, call Mom.”
  • Limit screen time: With more than 50 games and activities for families, the Assistant on Google Home can provide more fun for the family without TV, tablets or phones. And when it’s game time, you can broadcast the message to all Google Home devices in your house.

Thanks to my Assistant on Google Home, 2018 is the year I’m actually sticking to my resolution.


Protecting our Google Cloud customers from new vulnerabilities without impacting performance

Category: Google | Jan 11, 2018

If you’ve been keeping up on the latest tech news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the CPU security flaw that Google’s Project Zero disclosed last Wednesday. On Friday, we answered some of your questions and detailed how we are protecting Cloud customers. Today, we’d like to go into even more detail on how we’ve protected Google Cloud products against these speculative execution vulnerabilities, and what we did to make sure our Google Cloud customers saw minimal performance impact from these mitigations.

Modern CPUs and operating systems protect programs and users by putting a “wall” around them so that one application, or user, can’t read what’s stored in another application’s memory. These boundaries are enforced by the CPU.

But as we disclosed last week, Project Zero discovered techniques that can circumvent these protections in some cases, allowing one application to read the private memory of another, potentially exposing sensitive information.

The vulnerabilities come in three variants, each of which must be protected against individually. Variant 1 and Variant 2 have also been referred to as “Spectre.” Variant 3 has been referred to as “Meltdown.” Project Zero described these in technical detail, the Google Security blog described how we’re protecting users across all Google products, and we explained how we’re protecting Google Cloud customers and provided guidance on security best practices for customers who use their own operating systems with Google Cloud services.

Surprisingly, these vulnerabilities have been present in most computers for nearly 20 years. Because the vulnerabilities exploit features that are foundational to most modern CPUs—and were previously believed to be secure—they weren’t just hard to find, they were even harder to fix. For months, hundreds of engineers across Google and other companies worked continuously to understand these new vulnerabilities and find mitigations for them.

In September, we began deploying solutions for both Variants 1 and 3 to the production infrastructure that underpins all Google products—from Cloud services to Gmail, Search and Drive—and more-refined solutions in October. Thanks to extensive performance tuning work, these protections caused no perceptible impact in our cloud and required no customer downtime in part due to Google Cloud Platform’s Live Migration technology. No GCP customer or internal team has reported any performance degradation.

While those solutions addressed Variants 1 and 3, it was clear from the outset that Variant 2 was going to be much harder to mitigate. For several months, it appeared that disabling the vulnerable CPU features would be the only option for protecting all our workloads against Variant 2. While that was certain to work, it would also disable key performance-boosting CPU features, thus slowing down applications considerably.

Not only did we see considerable slowdowns for many applications, we also noticed inconsistent performance, since the speed of one application could be impacted by the behavior of other applications running on the same core. Rolling out these mitigations would have negatively impacted many customers.

With the performance characteristics uncertain, we started looking for a “moonshot”—a way to mitigate Variant 2 without hardware support. Finally, inspiration struck in the form of “Retpoline”—a novel software binary modification technique that prevents branch-target-injection, created by Paul Turner, a software engineer who is part of our Technical Infrastructure group. With Retpoline, we didn’t need to disable speculative execution or other hardware features. Instead, this solution modifies programs to ensure that execution cannot be influenced by an attacker.

With Retpoline, we could protect our infrastructure at compile-time, with no source-code modifications. Furthermore, testing this feature, particularly when combined with optimizations such as software branch prediction hints, demonstrated that this protection came with almost no performance loss.

We immediately began deploying this solution across our infrastructure. In addition to sharing the technique with industry partners upon its creation, we open-sourced our compiler implementation in the interest of protecting all users.

By December, all Google Cloud Platform (GCP) services had protections in place for all known variants of the vulnerability. During the entire update process, nobody noticed: we received no customer support tickets related to the updates. This confirmed our internal assessment that in real-world use, the performance-optimized updates Google deployed do not have a material effect on workloads.

We believe that Retpoline-based protection is the best-performing solution for Variant 2 on current hardware. Retpoline fully protects against Variant 2 without impacting customer performance on all of our platforms. In sharing our research publicly, we hope that this can be universally deployed to improve the cloud experience industry-wide.

This set of vulnerabilities was perhaps the most challenging and hardest to fix in a decade, requiring changes to many layers of the software stack. It also required broad industry collaboration since the scope of the vulnerabilities was so widespread. Because of the extreme circumstances of extensive impact and the complexity involved in developing fixes, the response to this issue has been one of the few times that Project Zero made an exception to its 90-day disclosure policy.

While these vulnerabilities represent a new class of attack, they’re just a few among the many different types of threats our infrastructure is designed to defend against every day. Our infrastructure includes mitigations by design and defense-in-depth, and we’re committed to ongoing research and contributions to the security community and to protecting our customers as new vulnerabilities are discovered.


Seven kinds of Local Guides you might spot on Google Maps

Category: Google | Jan 10, 2018

What kind are you?

Satellites are famously effective for mapping, but they don’t take photos of must-have breakfast sandwiches, update hours of operation or tell families when places are wheelchair accessible. That’s Local Guides territory. Local Guides are people who share information on Google Maps to help others discover where to go—and there are more than 60 million of them in our global community, with the most prolific contributors hailing from the United States, India and Brazil. They guide worldwide users each day, rack up millions of views, support small businesses and literally put important, sometimes vital, information on the map for others to use.

Anyone can become a Local Guide—and once you do, you’ll become part of a dynamic community. Each contributor is different, with specific passions and ways of sharing. Here are seven inspiring specialists we’ve spotted, with tips on how to do what they do.

1. The visualist

Local Guides love taking photos—in fact, they shared more than 300 million of them on Google Maps last year. If you’re a visualist, it’s your favorite way to contribute.

Loves: Seeking photogenic spots, finding the beauty in everyday places, making the most of golden hour.

Tip: You can share your shots of places right from Google Photos. Just tap the share icon on Android and select Add to Maps. Then select or update the location before you post it.

The Visualist.jpg

2. The fact hunter

In many parts of the world, essential information like where to find an ATM or a clinic may be hard to come by. Fact hunters uncover these details to share with others on Google Maps.

Loves: Accurate listings on Google Maps, adding missing info for small businesses, moving location pins so people can find places.

Tip: On Google Maps for mobile, go to Your contributions in the menu and tap Uncover missing info to see which places need your expertise.

The Fact Hunter.jpg

3. The trailblazer

If a friend has ever asked you for the hottest new restaurant in town, you might be a trailblazer. These Local Guides have the pulse of their cities and love being the first to try a new place.

Loves: Adding the first review or photo to a place, putting unlisted places on the map.

Tip: Check out restaurants and local shops opening this year so you can add their first photos and get those views.

The Trailblazer.gif

4. The sage

If a review has ever helped you choose whether to stay by the sea or by the bay, you can thank a sage. No matter where they go, these Local Guides write about all the inside tips, from the best exhibits to visit to the best instructors to take at a fitness studio.

Loves: Dropping knowledge and tips in reviews, answering yes/no questions about places that pop up on your screen, responding to others via the new Questions & answers feature that shows up on Google Maps for Android.

Tip: Turn on your Location History to easily review all the places you’ve been, and make lists of your favorites.

The Sage.jpg

5. The multimedia guru

Equipped with plenty of battery packs, this Local Guide helps you see a place from every angle with 360 photos and video contributions like visual tours and on-camera reviews. 

Loves: Adding 360 photos and videos of places, going to great lengths for the perfect shot.

Tip: If you take a video on your phone, you can add up to 30 seconds of it to a place the same way you’d add a photo to a place on Google Maps.

The Multimedia Guru.gif

6. The connector

This Local Guide’s contributions go beyond Google Maps. From hosting meet-ups with other community members to chiming in on Connect (the forum for Local Guides), the connector is a friendly face for newbies and gurus alike. 

Loves: Hosting meet-ups, making lists about places to go and sharing them with friends, liking other people’s reviews.

Tip: Find out if a Local Guides meet-up is happening near you.


7. The advocate

Local Guides champion many causes, from helping small businesses to making it easier for wheelchair users to get around. The advocate keeps a cause top-of-mind while they share info, like whether a place has a wheelchair ramp.

Loves: Doing good in the world for locals and visitors alike, this handy accessibility guide for sharing helpful info, watching Local Heroes videos on Local Guides’ YouTube channel.

Tip: When you mark something as wheelchair-accessible, it helps families with strollers, too.



Our 17 favorite education moments from 2017

Category: Google | Jan 10, 2018

Editor’s Note: Happy New Year from all of us on the Google for Education team! We know you count on Google for Education in your classrooms, and we take that responsibility seriously. We remain deeply committed to bringing the best of Google to education, and to expanding learning for everyone. As we look to the year ahead, we’re looking back on our 17 favorite moments from 2017.

In 2017, we…

1. Did an hour of code with Chance the Rapper for Computer Science Education Week, surprising a Chicago classroom and announcing a $1.5 million grant to provide CS for students across Chicago Public Schools. We also released the first-ever programmable Google Doodle and invited students to code their own Google logos.


2. Announced a new initiative called Grow with Google which provides access to digital tools and training for students, teachers, job-seekers and lifelong learners. As part of the announcement, our CEO Sundar Pichai visited one of the Pittsburgh classrooms participating in our new Dynamic Learning Project, a pilot that empowers educators to use technology in meaningful ways.


As part of Grow with Google, our CEO Sundar visited a school in Pittsburgh to learn about their experience participating in the Dynamic Learning Project

3. Introduced a new generation of Chromebooks that let you use a stylus and flip from laptop to tablet mode. These Chromebooks have cameras on two sides and USB-C charging. New devices from Acer, Asus, HP, Dell and Lenovo come in all shapes, sizes, and price points to meet the needs of different teachers, students, schools and districts.

Chromebooks_New Generation.png

A next generation Chromebook with dual camera flipped into tablet mode.

4. Went back to school with a new resource hub for teachers. On #FirstDayOfClassroom, there’s helpful Google for Education tips and tricks from the people who know our tools the best—educators. Thanks to input from our dedicated community, we were also able to introduce the most-requested features in Google Classroom and Forms.

5. Met the Internaut, a digital citizenship guru and mascot of Be Internet Awesome, a program to help students make smart decisions online. With resources for students (including the online game Interland), educators, and families, everyone has the tools to learn and participate in digital safety and citizenship. Bonus: we also launched a Digital Citizenship and Safety course.

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6. Celebrated International Literacy Day by creating and translating more than 1,000 children’s books for StoryWeaver, a grantee, with the #1000books campaign. Our support of Storyweaver is part of our 2016-2017 $50 million philanthropic commitment to nonprofit organizations working to close global learning gaps.

7. Were inspired by more than 11,000 girls from 103 countries during the Technovation Challenge. Finalists came to Google’s Mountain View headquarters to pitch their projects, which address issues in categories including peace, poverty, environment, equality, education, and health.


Our CEO Sundar Pichai takes a selfie with members of the winning team behind QamCare

8. Used technology to amplify student stories. Working with the non-profit 826 Valencia, Googlers helped under-resourced students create A Planet Ruled by Love using Tilt Brush. The result was a virtual reality movie that helped kids express themselves through storytelling and technology.

826 Valencia and Google

826 Valencia and Google

9. Ate funnel cakes and coded at the Illinois State Fair. We also announced our support of 4-H with a $1.5 million grant to provide students around the U.S. the opportunity to grow their future skills through computer science programming. Eat your heart out, blue ribbon marmalade.


An Illinois 4-Her on a virtual reality Expedition to see how students coded an ear tag for farmers to keep track of their wandering cattle

10. Did our research. Partnering with Gallup, we learned that students who are encouraged by a teacher or parent are three times more likely to be interested in learning computer science. 2018 resolution idea: Share more facts like these to help spur educators, families and advocates to encourage all students to learn computer science.

11. Caught Hamilton fever. With support from and the Gilder Lehrman Institute, 5,000 students from Title I schools in New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area revolutionized how we learn about American history. After a six week program, students created their own pieces that they performed on the Hamilton stage (the room where it happens).


Google Expeditions helped bring students closer to Alexander Hamilton’s history.

12. Were awestruck by the innovators in Latin America who joined the #InnovarParaMi movement. From a teacher helping indigenous women in Mexico get online to a fifth grader turning water bottles into light bulbs, teachers and students across Latin America are using technology to empower a rising generation of innovative changemakers.

These sixth graders built a dispenser to make drinking water accessible. #innovarparami

These sixth graders built a dispenser to make drinking water accessible. #innovarparami

13. Showed girls that the sky’s the limit for women in tech. Some examples include:

14. Saw the future through the eyes of 140,000 young artists who participated in Doodle 4 Google, a contest for students to design their own Google Doodle. Guest judges selected the 2017 winner based on artistic merit, creativity, and their written statement explaining their vision for the future. (The 2018 contest just opened, so submit your Doodle!)

Doodle collage.jpg

Connecticut 10th grader Sarah Harrison’s Doodle, “A Peaceful Future” (center) was chosen as the national winner.

15. Connected live with thousands of educators and students at events around the world like Bett in London, ISTE in Texas, EduTECH in Australia, EDUCAUSE in Pennsylvania and more. We hosted an online conference—EduOnAir—in Australia, celebrated Dia dos Professores in Brasil, hosted a study tour in Sweden, kicked off a new school year in Mexico, and road-tripped across the US with ExploreEDU.



16. Traveled to a new dimension with the launch of the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program. With augmented reality, students can explore the solar system up close, and even tour the Roman Colosseum from their classroom. (You can still sign up to bring AR to your class!)

Expeditions AR - Bringing the world into the classroom

Expeditions AR – Bringing the world into the classroom

17. Threw our first-ever PD party to celebrate passionate lifelong learners. Throughout the week of festivities, we offered discounts on our professional development programs and hosted webinars from Certified Educators, Trainers and Innovators. Looking for a 2018 resolution? Explore our Training Center for a professional development opportunity that’s right for you.

We are constantly inspired by the powerful work of educators around the world and we are excited to continue working together this coming year and beyond. Thank you for all that you do, both inside and outside the classroom, to help prepare future generations to make the world a better (and brainier) place!


Memory machines: VR180 cameras, and capturing life as you see it

Category: Google | Jan 9, 2018

When I was growing up, my dad and even my grandfather always had camcorders stuck to their shoulders. They were our family documentarians, and were always the first to try a new gadget or gizmo if it would help us remember the places we went and the special times we shared. Decades later, I’m so grateful, and I treasure the memories they captured on Betamax and film.


My grandfather Henry in the backyard with his video camera.

We care about photos and videos because they connect us with important moments, special trips, and time together with the people who matter most to us. They’re abstract representations that help us remember—little visual gifts to our future selves. That being said, for most of the 20th century, photos and videos were the best you could do. They’re better than nothing, but so far from the real thing.


A photo of me at Disneyland at age 4, taken by my dad with a Nikon EM 35mm SLR.

But as the technology used to capture these moments has improved, the fidelity has also increased. From primitive pinhole cameras, to black and white film cameras, to color, to video, there’s been a continuous upward trajectory of resolution and quality. Today’s high-end VR cameras are a big leap forward. Through immersive, stereoscopic footage, they do something more compelling than refreshing your memory—they make you feel like you’re there. And the closer cameras get to capturing the moment just the way we experienced it, the closer we get to creating time machines for ourselves.

Though Google started by making VR cameras for filmmakers and professional creators a few years ago, our team has always aimed to help people capture their personal memories in VR. But in order to make this tech accessible to everyone, we had to rethink the camera itself. There are 360 cameras in the market today, but they present some challenges—they can be costly, confusing to use (where do you point it?), and the photographer always ends up in the frame. So, we focused on the pixels that matter (the ones in front of you!) with a new format we’re calling VR180. And we started designing high-quality, pocket-sized cameras that anyone could use to capture VR180 experiences with just a click of a button. The first VR180 cameras will hit shelves throughout this year, just in time for you to start hitting “record” on your own memories in 2018.

I’ve been using the VR180 prototypes for a while now, in places like my living room or on trips to the beach. It’s easy to share the captures with my family and friends. They can look at them on their phones, or use a viewer like Cardboard or Daydream View to step into the moment as if they were there. It’s amazing that I can film my sons jumping on the trampoline, or having a quiet breakfast, or being back where I was many years ago, on a ride at a carnival—and not only share those moments with family far away, but also relive them myself, in a way that makes me feel like I’m right back in each moment.


VR180 capture of one of my sons on a carnival ride, captured with one of our camera prototypes.

That’s why these VR180 cameras are so special. They do your memories justice, by enabling you to capture life the way you see it—with two eyes. When I’ve shown my family these recordings, they look into the headset, and smile. They say things like, “This is amazing!” and, when they take the headset off: “I only wish we had these cameras sooner.”

I couldn’t agree more.


A new way to experience Daydream and capture memories in VR

Category: Google | Jan 9, 2018

Since we launched Cardboard, our goal has been to create virtual reality experiences that are accessible, useful, and relevant to as many people as possible. With Daydream, we’ve been building a platform for high-quality mobile VR: we’ve worked with lots of different partners to bring fifteen Daydream-ready phones to market for smartphone VR. And today marks another step, with Lenovo unveiling new details about the Mirage Solo, a Daydream standalone headset we first announced at Google I/O. With it, you’ll have a more immersive and streamlined way to experience the best of what Daydream has to offer without needing a smartphone.

We’ve also been investing in ways to help you capture your life’s most important moments in VR. We’ve designed high-quality, yet simple and pocket-sized cameras that anyone can use with just the click of a button. Our partners Lenovo and YI are sharing more on these, and they’ll be available beginning in the second quarter this year.

Experience Daydream in a new way

The Lenovo Mirage Solo builds on everything that’s great about smartphone-based VR—portability and ease of use—and it delivers an even more immersive virtual reality experience. You don’t need a smartphone to use it: you just pick it up, put it on, and you’re ready to go. The headset is more comfortable and natural because of a new technology we created at Google called WorldSense. Based on years of investment in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), it enables PC-quality positional tracking on a mobile device without the need for any additional external sensors. WorldSense lets you duck, dodge and lean, and step backwards, forwards or side to side, unlocking new gameplay elements that bring the virtual world to life. WorldSense tracking and Mirage Solo’s high performance graphics mean that the objects you see will stay fixed in place just like in the real world, no matter which way you tilt or move your head. The Lenovo Mirage Solo will also have a wide field of view for great immersion, and an advanced display optimized for virtual reality, so everything you see stays crystal clear. It’s the best way to access Daydream.


Lenovo Mirage Solo

We’re working closely with developers to bring new experiences to the platform that take advantage of all these new technologies, including a new game based on the iconic universe of Blade Runner called Blade Runner: Revelations. You’ll also have access to the entire Daydream catalog of over 250 apps, including Google apps like Street View, Photos, and Expeditions. With YouTube VR, you can watch the best VR video content, from powerful short pieces chronicling extraordinary role models to music, fashion, sports and epic journeys around the world. The Lenovo Mirage Solo also has built-in casting support, so you’re just a couple clicks away from sharing your virtual experiences onto a television for your friends and family to follow along. It will hit shelves beginning in the second quarter this year.

Capture your most important memories with VR180 cameras

Photos and videos matter to us because they help us remember the special moments in our lives. But what if you could do more than just remember a moment; what if you could relive it? That’s the idea behind the VR180 format, and we created VR180 cameras so that anyone could have an easy way to capture and then re-experience the past.


For the full effect, check out this video in a VR headset like Cardboard or Daydream View.

VR180 cameras are simple and designed for anyone to use, even if they’ve never tried VR before. There are other consumer VR cameras available today, but you have to think carefully about where you place these cameras when recording, and they capture flat 360 footage that doesn’t create a realistic sense of depth. In contrast, with VR180 cameras, you just point and shoot to take 3D photos and videos of the world in stunning 4K resolution. The resulting imagery is far more immersive than what you get with a traditional camera. You just feel like you’re there. You can re-experience the memories you capture in virtual reality with a headset like Cardboard or Daydream View. Or for a lightweight but more accessible experience, you can watch on your phone.

With options for unlimited private storage in Google Photos, you’ll have complete control over these irreplaceable memories, and you can also view them anytime in 2D on your mobile or desktop devices without a VR headset. If you want to share them, uploading to services like YouTube is easy.


Lenovo Mirage Camera

Several VR180 cameras will be available soon. Different models will sport different features—like live streaming, which lets you share special moments in real time. The Lenovo Mirage Camera and YI Technology’s YI Horizon VR180 Camera will hit shelves beginning in the second quarter, and a camera from LG will be coming later this year. For professional creators, the Z Cam K1 Pro recently launched, and Panasonic is building VR180 support for their just-announced GH5 cameras with a new add-on.

YI camera

YI Horizon VR180 Camera

We’re continuing to invest in the virtual reality experiences that are compelling and relevant for everyone. Whether you access Daydream through a Daydream View and the Daydream-ready smartphone of your choice or the new, more immersive Lenovo Mirage Solo, you’ll get the best mobile VR apps and videos anywhere. And with a range of VR180 cameras to choose from, you’ll be able to capture your most important memories in a new way.

We also want to hear from you. Starting today, we’re launching a VR180 contest: tell us about a special memory you’d like to capture, and we’ll work with the winners to bring their ideas to life.


Reflecting on 2017: a year in review for G Suite

Category: Google | Jan 9, 2018

Before we get into the swing of the new year—which is sure to bring new projects, new teammates and new challenges—let’s take a moment to reflect on highlights from 2017.

Here’s a look at what happened in G Suite last year.

1. Bringing you the power of Google’s artificial intelligence.

Smart Reply GIF

Technology continues to change the way we work. This year, we further integrated Google’s artificial intelligence into G Suite so that you can accomplish more in less time. Using machine learning, Gmail suggests email responses. Sheets builds charts, creates pivot tables and suggests formulas. And you can also ask questions in full sentences and get instant answers in Sheets and Cloud Search (in addition to Docs and Slides) thanks to natural language processing.

2. Helping businesses secure their data.


Protecting sensitive data and assets is a constant challenge that businesses face. Now, using contextual intelligence, Gmail can warn you if you’re responding to someone outside of your company domain. We also extended DLP to Google Drive to make it easier to secure sensitive data and control sharing. Google Vault for Drive helps surface information to support legal and compliance requirements. And we made it easier for you to manage which third-party apps can access your G Suite data.

Check out the G Suite website for more information on how you can transform your business to be security-first (or, try passing along these tips to help prevent phishing attempts).


3. Going all in on meetings.

We spend a lot of time on conference calls—for some, 30 percent of their day is spent in meetings—but meetings don’t often reflect how we actually like to work together. To help teams transform how they collaborate, we created a new Hangouts experience for the enterprise, designed cost-effective hardware built for the meeting room, reimagined the traditional whiteboard and introduced an intelligent communication app. Plus, Google Calendar got a makeover and you can use it on your iPad now.

4. Providing enterprise-grade solutions for collaboration and storage.

Large enterprises are often drowning in files—files that represent a company’s collective knowledge. Every strategic plan, brainstorm or financial plan is an opportunity to learn more about your business, which is why you need tools to find, organize, understand and act on that knowledge.

For years, we’ve been working to ensure that Google Drive meets enterprise needs and last year Google was recognized by Gartner as a Leader in the July 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms. We were also recognized by Forrester as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: for Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) –  Cloud Solutions, Q4 2017 report, which published in December.

5. Building tools for marketing and sales organizations, even more integrations.

Image 4 - 2017 recap for G Suite

We built tools to help marketing and sales organizations create their best work and collaborate effectively, even with other tools that teams rely on. We launched Jamboard, announced a strategic partnership with Salesforce, opened up Gmail to your favorite business apps and integrated Hire with G Suite.

These are just some of the ways we’re helping businesses transform the way they work everyday. We’re excited to see what 2018 has to offer.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.


New devices and more: what’s in store for the Google Assistant this year

Category: Google | Jan 8, 2018

The Google Assistant is your personal Google. It lets you have a conversation and ask about everything under the sun and, best of all, it’s available wherever you need help—at home or on the go. Over the past year, we’ve been working to bring the Assistant to more devices in more places and now it’s available on more than 400 million devices.

Tuesday marks the start of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV, and we’ll be there to showcase some of the exciting stuff we have in store for 2018. So if you’re at CES, stop on by the Google Assistant Playground (Central Plaza-21). Here we go!

At home

The Google Assistant gives you an easy, hands-free way to control your home, whether it’s helping you dim the lights from the comfort of your couch or play your dinner party playlist. It’s already lending a helping hand in speakers like Google Home, Mini and Max. In fact, we’ve sold more than one Google Home every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October. And with so much excitement around speakers, we’re making the Assistant even more available—this week we’re announcing that the Assistant is coming to new voice-activated speakers from Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio and SōLIS.

But there are also moments when a screen would make the Assistant even more helpful, like when you need to learn how to cut a pineapple, and the best way is to watch a video. Today, we’re announcing that the Assistant is coming to smart displays. These new devices have the Google Assistant built in, and with the added benefit of a touch screen, they can help you get even more done. You can watch videos from YouTube, video call with Google Duo, find photos from Google Photos and more. You can also get recommendations for your favorite content, right on the home screen.

Starting later this year, the Assistant is coming to new smart displays from four companies, including JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony. To learn more about how smart displays were built, visit the Android Developers blog.

Last year we brought the Assistant to Android TV devices including NVIDIA’s SHIELD TV and Sony’s Android TVs, so you can find the latest blockbuster, stock up on snacks with Google Express and set the perfect movie watching mood lighting. We will continue to roll out the Assistant to existing Android TVs such as AirTV Player, Bouygues Telecom, LG U+, TCL, Skyworth and Xiaomi. And, this week, Changhong, Element, Funai, Haier, Hisense and Westinghouse are announcing new Android TVs with the Google Assistant. Plus, we’ve worked closely with LG to integrate the Assistant into the new line of LG TVs in the coming months.

And, across all your devices, the Google Assistant is making your home even smarter. The Assistant now works with over 225 home control brands and more than 1,500 devices, including a bunch of new ones from Abode, Crestron, Gourmia, Insteon, Kohler and Yonomi. With these integrations, millions of new smart home devices are being connected to the Assistant every month, so you can stay in control, whether you want to heat up the house, check on the laundry or make sure you locked the back door.

On your phone and headphones

The Google Assistant is available on your Android phone, iPhone, and headphones, helping you when you’re on the go. And this week we’re announcing that over the coming year, more headphones are on the way from Jaybird, JBL, LG and Sony. These headphones are optimized for the Google Assistant; once you pair them to your phone, you can talk to the Assistant instantly with just the touch of an earbud, whether you want to skip a track to hear the next song, get notifications, or hear and respond to your messages.

In your car

The Assistant can also help you in the car, so that you can keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Starting this week in the U.S., the Assistant is coming to Android Auto.

Android Auto is available in tens of millions of cars on more than 400 models from 40+ brands, including Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen and Volvo. With the Assistant in Android Auto, you can listen to your playlists from apps like Spotify or Google Play Music, get quick directions from Google Maps or Waze, and send or receive messages from services like WhatsApp. And soon, you’ll be able to reserve a parking space with SpotHero or order your favorite handcrafted drink or food from Starbucks—all from the road.

You can use the Assistant in Android Auto on your car display by connecting your Android phone to a supported car—or you can use it on your phone screen in any car. And we’re working with auto makers to integrate the Assistant directly into their cars—no phone required.

With the Assistant on your phone, speaker or TV, you can also check your fuel level, lock doors, and more. This feature is already available on cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai—and today we’re announcing that it’ll be coming to cars from Kia and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Always ready to help

Since the Assistant can do so many things, we’re introducing a new way to talk about them. We’re calling them Actions. Actions include features built by Google—like directions on Google Maps—and those that come from developers, publishers and other third parties, like working out with Fitbit Coach. So finding photos with Google Photos would be one Action while meditating with Headspace would be another. All in all, today there are more than a million Actions you can take with your Assistant.

To help you discover the Actions available on the Assistant, we have a new directory page. You can also explore them with your Assistant on your Android phone or iPhone —just go to your Assistant, select the blue icon in the corner and dive in. And we bet you’ll find a few gems you never knew the Assistant could do. And the best part? We’re always adding more Actions.

That’s our news for the day. We’re just a few days into the new year and continuing to make the Assistant more helpful and more available, no matter what device you’re using. We can’t wait to see what you do with the Assistant this year.


Bringing it all together with Google Pay

Category: Google | Jan 8, 2018

If you’ve ever paid for groceries with Android Pay, used Chrome to automatically fill in your payment info, or purchased an app on Google Play, then you’ve already experienced some of the ways Google helps you pay for things online and in stores. Over the past year, we’ve been working to make these experiences simpler, safer, and more consistent.

Today, we’re excited to announce we’ll be bringing together all the different ways to pay with Google, including Android Pay and Google Wallet, into a single brand: Google Pay.

Google Pay Lockup

With Google Pay, it’ll be easier for you to use the payment information saved to your Google Account, so you can speed through checkout with peace of mind. Over the coming weeks, you’ll see Google Pay online, in store, and across Google products, as well as when you’re paying friends*.

Google Pay

Look for Google Pay at checkout in Google apps, online, and in stores

Google Pay is already available on Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, Instacart, and other apps and websites you love. (Be sure to take advantage of our current offers to save time and money.)

If you’re a developer, visit our Payments Solutions site to see how you can implement Google Pay, or work with one of our processor partners for even simpler integration.

Bringing everything into one brand is just the first step for Google Pay. We can’t wait to share more. 

Pali Bhat
VP of Product Management, Payments

*We will also be bringing these experiences to Tez users in India—stay tuned. 


Answering your questions about “Meltdown” and “Spectre”

Category: Google | Jan 5, 2018

This week, security vulnerabilities dubbed “Spectre” and “Meltdown” made news headlines. On Wednesday, we explained what these vulnerabilities are and how we’re protecting you against them.

Since then, there’s been considerable discussion about what this means for Google Cloud and the industry at large. Today, we’d like to clear up some confusion and highlight several key considerations for our customers.

What are “Spectre” and “Meltdown”?

Last year, Google’s Project Zero team discovered serious security flaws caused by “speculative execution,” a technique used by most modern processors (CPUs) to optimize performance.

Independent researchers separately discovered and named these vulnerabilities “Spectre” and “Meltdown.” 

Project Zero described three variants of this new class of speculative execution attack. Variant 1 and Variant 2 have been referred to as “Spectre.” Variant 3 has been referred to as “Meltdown.” Most vendors are referring to them by Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures aka “CVE” labels, which are an industry standard way of identifying vulnerabilities.


There’s no single fix for all three attack variants; each requires protection individually.

Here’s an overview of each variant:

  • Variant 1 (CVE-2017-5753), “bounds check bypass.” This vulnerability affects specific sequences within compiled applications, which must be addressed on a per-binary basis. This variant is currently the basis for concern around browser attacks, Javascript exploitation and vulnerabilities within individual binaries.

  • Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715), “branch target injection.” This variant may either be fixed by a CPU microcode update from the CPU vendor, or by applying a software protection called “Retpoline” to binaries where concern about information leakage is present. This variant is currently the basis for concern around Cloud Virtualization and “Hypervisor Bypass” concerns that affect entire systems.

  • Variant 3 (CVE-2017-5754), “rogue data cache load.”  This variant is the basis behind the discussion around “KPTI,” or “Kernel Page Table Isolation.” When an attacker already has the ability to run code on a system, they can access memory which they do not have permission to access.

For more information on these variants, please read this week’s Google Security post.

Am I protected from Spectre and Meltdown?  

Google’s engineering teams began working to protect our customers from these vulnerabilities upon our learning of them in June 2017. We applied solutions across the entire suite of Google products, and we collaborated with the industry at large to help protect users across the web.

G Suite and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are updated to protect against all known attack vectors. Some customers may worry that they have not been protected since they were not asked to reboot their instance. Google Cloud is architected in a manner that enables us to update the environment while providing operational continuity for our customers. Via live migration we can patch our infrastructure without requiring customers to reboot their instances.

Customers who use their own operating systems with Google Cloud services should continue to follow security best practices and apply security updates to their images just as they would for any other operating system vulnerability. We’re providing an up-to-date reference on the availability of vendor patches for common operating systems on our GCE Security Bulletin page.

I’ve heard that Spectre is nearly impossible to protect against. Is this true?

There has been significant concern in particular about “Spectre.” The use of the name “Spectre” to refer to both Variants 1 and 2 has caused some confusion over whether it’s “fixed” or not.

Google Cloud instances are protected against all known inter-VM attacks, regardless of the patch status of the guest environments, and attackers do not have access to any other customers’ data as a result of these vulnerabilities. Google Cloud and other public clouds use virtualization technology to isolate neighboring customer workloads. A virtualization component known as a hypervisor connects the physical machine to virtual machines. This hypervisor can be updated to address Variant 2 threats. Google Cloud has updated its hypervisor using “Retpoline,” which addresses all currently known Variant 2 attack methods.

Variant 1 is the basis behind claims that Spectre is nearly impossible to protect against. The difficulty is that Variant 1 affects individual software binaries, so it must be handled by discovering and addressing exploits within each binary.

Risks that Variant 1 would pose to the infrastructure underpinning Google Cloud are addressed by the multiple security controls that make up our layered “defense in depth” security posture. Because Google is in full control of our infrastructure from the hardware up to our secure software development practices, our infrastructure is protected against Variant 1. You can read more about the security foundations of our infrastructure in our whitepaper.

We work continuously to stay ahead of the constantly-evolving threat landscape and will continue to roll out additional protections to address potential risks.

As a user of the public cloud, am I more vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown than others?

In many respects, public cloud users are better-protected from security vulnerabilities than are users of traditional datacenter-hosted applications. Security best practices rely on discovering vulnerabilities early, and patching them promptly and completely. Each of these activities is aided by the scale and automation that top public cloud providers can offer — for example, few companies maintain a several-hundred-person security research team to find vulnerabilities and patch them before they’re discovered by others or disclosed. Having the ability to update millions of servers in days, without causing user disruption or requiring maintenance windows, is difficult technology to develop but it allows patches and updates to be deployed quickly after they become available, and without user disruption that can damage productivity.

Spectre and Meltdown are new and troubling vulnerabilities, but it’s important to remember that there are many different types of threats that Google (and other cloud providers) protect against every single day. Google’s cloud infrastructure doesn’t rely on any single technology to make it secure. Our stack builds security through progressive layers that deliver defense in depth. From the physical premises to the purpose-built servers, networking equipment, and custom security chips to the low-level software stack running on every machine, our entire hardware infrastructure is Google-controlled, -secured, -built and -hardened.

Is performance impacted?

On most of Google’s workloads, including our cloud infrastructure, we’ve seen negligible impact on performance after applying remediations. This was explained further in our follow-up Security blog post on January 4.

There are many conflicting reports about patch impacts being publicly discussed. In some cases, people have published results of tests that focus solely on making API calls to the operating system, which does not represent the real-world scenario that customer software will encounter. There’s no substitute for testing to determine for yourself what performance you can expect in your actual situation. We believe solutions exist that introduce minimal performance impact, and expect such techniques will be adopted by software vendors over time. We designed and tested our mitigations for this issue to have minimal performance impact, and the rollout has been uneventful.

Where can I get additional information?

  • Our Support page offers a list of affected Google products and will be updated with their current status of mitigation against these risks

  • Our GCP Security Bulletins page will provide notifications as other operating system maintainers publish patches for this vulnerability and as Compute Engine releases updated OS images