Friday, June 29, 2012

Google's new Nexus Q: Made in the U.S.A.

(CNN) -- Forget the applications like video and audio streaming, or the built-in speakers. The most noteworthy feature of Google's new Nexus Q device may be this: It's made in the United States.

When Google rolled out the device at its developers conference in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, reporters noticed the words "Designed and Manufactured in the U.S.A." etched onto the bottom.

The gadget, about the size and shape of a Magic 8 Ball, is billed by Google as "the first social streaming player." It can be connected to a TV, has its own speakers, and can stream music and video from the cloud as well as connect an Android tablet or phone with home electronics.

Google hasn't played up its origin, even though the vast majority of electronics are manufactured in China or other countries where labor is cheaper than in the U.S. A Google spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment for this story.

But The New York Times reported Thursday that it had been given a brief tour of the plant, which it says is about 15 minutes from Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, and that "hundreds" of employees appear to work making the Nexus Q. The tour was given on condition that the Times not report the factory's exact location.

"We've been absent (from the U.S.) for so long, we decided, why don't we try it and see what happens?" Andy Rubin, Google's vice president in charge of the company's Android operating system, told the Times.

Electronics companies, like those in many other sectors, for years have flocked to China to take advantage of cheap labor costs and loose business regulations.

Most famously, Apple has appeared in headlines over its relationship with Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer that makes its iPads and iPhones. Foxconn has been accused of unsafe and unfair working conditions in recent years. Apple has announced it's working to improve conditions at its supply-chain plants, and CEO Tim Cook visited a Foxconn factory earlier this year.

But as wages and other costs begin to increase in China, a handful of mostly smaller companies has begun bringing those jobs back to the States. Late last year, an analysis by the Boston Consulting Group predicted that 2015 will be a "tipping point" when it will make more sense for many industries to keep their plants closer to home.

"A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back -- and the economic impact could be significant," said Harold L. Sirkin, a senior partner and lead author of the analysis. "We're on record predicting a U.S. manufacturing renaissance starting by around 2015."

The analysis predicts lower-tech manufacturing like textiles and apparel will stay overseas, while more complex products, like electronics and automobiles, might be more likely to be made in the United States.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google unveils streaming-media 'globe'

(Ars Technica) -- Google unveiled a new home server called Nexus Q on its Google Play store in the minutes before the company's Google I/O conference in San Francisco began.

Google bills the globe-like device as "the first social streaming player." It can be used as an amp to power speakers and can be connected to a TV. It is controllable by any Android device running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

At I/O, Google announced that the Nexus Q is an offshoot of Project Tungsten, the company's home automation division. The black, spherical body of the server is fairly small at 4.6 inches in diameter, and it weighs 2 pounds, according to the product page.

Inside the Nexus Q is an OMAP 4460 dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU with an SGX540 graphics core. The processor is accompanied by 1GB of RAM and 16GB of flash memory. According to the New York Times, the player "has a single control: the volume can be turned up or down by grabbing and twisting the dome that makes up the top half of the device."

Google touted the Nexus Q as being designed to encourage "general hackability," though it did not elaborate further.

Google unveils Nexus 7 tablet

The presenter did note that multiple Nexus Qs can be set up to work with one another throughout the house; changing music on one changes it and plays it through the rest. Another use case mentioned was a collaborative playlist, where a bunch of friends hanging out with their Android devices can each contribute songs to the list from their Google Play accounts.

As for movie-watching, the experience is meant to be seamless: users can start a movie on an Android tablet, pick it up again on their TV with the Nexus Q, and then stop and pick it up again on an Android smartphone.

The Android 4.1 device's ports include Micro HDMI, TOSLink Optical audio, Ethernet, micro AB USB (for service and support only, Google says), and banana jack speaker outputs. Supported apps include Google Play Music, Google Play Movies and TV, and YouTube.

The device is priced at $299 and will ship in July (the product page currently shows a 2-3 week ship time). Google is also selling a pair of accessories to go with the Nexus Q: a pair of bookshelf speakers for $399, and two speaker cables for $49.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zynga launches gaming network, brings multiplayer to games

(Mashable) -- At a special dog-friendly press conference at its headquarters in San Francisco, Zynga announced some of its plans for the future, including an API for both Zynga developers and third parties.

The company is also launching its own gaming network: Zynga with Friends. Already available on, zFriends helps gamers find players who have the same gaming interests and play styles as they do. It will also connect all of the games on the network.

Zynga is also rolling out a new chat experience, and profiles that allow you to keep track of records for a game. Zynga Multiplayer is also on the way. It will first launch with Bubble Safari and then come to other titles in the Zynga With Friends network in the future.

A new Zynga With Friends lobby will give you all the information you need to know about the games you play in one place. For instance, you can see the challenges you currently have, gifts you've received, and what zFriends you currently have online to play with.

A Social stream will give you a list of things your friends needâ€"like a sheep -- so you can help friends progress in games. The Social Stream might also suggest players like you that you should challenge to a game.

Zynga has come a long way since launching its first game, Zynga Poker, a Facebook-only game and one of the first social games ever on July 1, 2007. The company followed that game in November 2008 with Zynga Poker for iPhone.

In June 2009, the company launched "FarmVille." This year the company has seen mobile social gaming grow. "Words with Friends" is now a household name, and is currently the No. 3 game on online.

"We founded Zynga with the simple premise that people could put play back in their lives, " Zynga CEO Mark Pincus said at the event.

"We started with some pretty simple ideas, that today seem even more simple. We started with a poker table where you could send your friends drinks and dancing gnomes." Games have grown considerably more complex since then, and Zynga games into some of the most popular in the world.

In the past minute 64,000 words have been played in the game. Zynga game players have drawn 43,000 pictures, played 38,000 hands of poker, opened 250,000 gifts from friends, played 140,000 turns of games together, and have sent more than 5,000 chats. Zynga releases 100 updates across its games each day, adding up to over 1,000 updates per week.

What do you think about Zynga With Friends? Let us know what you think about the new gaming network in the comments.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Facebook just switched your default e-mail address

(Mashable) -- Whether you've noticed or not, you have a new primary e-mail address listed as your Facebook contact, and most likely it's an address you've never used.

The social-networking site has quietly replaced your default e-mail addresses such as Gmail and Yahoo! with your address, an e-mail service option the company launched a few years ago and synced with Timeline in April.

"As we announced back in April, we've been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. "In addition to everyone receiving an address, we're also rolling out a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their Timelines." Facebook quietly tests shareable ad units

First spotted on Saturday by blogger Gervase Markham, the e-mail address you once listed as your point of contact is now hidden in the site's database and your assigned address is highlighted for friends to see.

If you ever changed your Facebook vanity URL, that serves as the prefix of your Facebook e-mail address (i.e. would be For those that never added a vanity URL, Facebook has assigned numbers to serve as your email account name. Facebook's facial-recognition acquisition raises privacy concerns

When users send an e-mail to your address, it pops up in your Facebook inbox. However, some users have experienced issues with receiving messages through Facebook, since some of them end up in an "Other Messages" folder that few people know about.

Although members have been slow to embrace their Facebook email address, the move may be a part of an effort to remind and encourage users to use it more.

If you want to switch your e-mail contact information back to what it was, it's easy to do. Visit your Timeline or profile page and select "About" under your contact information. You can then hide your Facebook email address from the contact page and elect to highlight another e-mail address. Friendthem plans to sue Facebook for 'find friends nearby' feature

"Ever since the launch of Timeline, people have had the ability to control what posts they want to show or hide on their own Timelines, and today we're extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook address," the Facebook spokesperson added.

What do you think of your Facebook e-mail address? Will you use it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.