Google now offers 24/7 Chrome support for non-Google Apps customers


Google is getting a wee more enterprisey. Today the company announced that it’s beginning to offer 24-by-7 phone and email customer support for Chrome for businesses that aren’t even paying to use Google Apps like Gmail and Docs.

The new program, Chrome for Work Assist, is a contact us”-type of affair. In other words, neither the blog post announcing the news nor the website that promotes it contains pricing information.

Until this point Chrome support was only available to Apps customers, Google for Work product manager Saswat Panigrahi wrote in the blog post. Initially Chrome for Work Assist is only available in the U.S. and Canada, but it will become more widely available in the future, he wrote. In addition to providing support, Google will be helping companies deploy Chrome across their workforce in the new offering, Panigrahi wrote.

Chrome has racked up more than 1 billion active users. Longtime users might know their way around it, but for companies that pay for many Microsoft technologies, technical support for Chrome specifically could be most welcome.

This sort of nuance is critical to getting businesses more comfortable with deploying core Google technologies. Success could mean greater willingness to pay for Google Apps, the Google public cloud, and other premium services.

Last year Google hired enterprise software veteran Diane Greene by acquiring her company Bebop. Since that deal Google has done certain things to make its technology a better choice. For instance Google quietly launched a content delivery network and its competitor to public cloud market leader Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Lambda event-driven computing service. And last week Google went public with the fact that music streaming service Spotify will be migrating its data infrastructure from AWS to the Google Cloud Platform. With these moves, and the new Chrome support for non-Apps customers, Google seems to be attempting to more fully shed its reputation as a consumer-focused company.

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Bethesda’s Fallout 4 season-pass price hike has it on top of Steam’s best-seller list

Come on buddy, let's go spend our money.

Check out more of our 20th anniversary of Pokémon coverage this week at GamesBeat.

Jacking up the price of downloadable content could turn into a new form of marketing.

Fallout 4’s season pass for all of its upcoming add-ons is the top-selling product on the Steam digital-distribution platform today, and that’s likely because its price is about to jump from $30 to $50 starting tomorrow. This has created a sense of urgency among anyone who wants access to all of the open-world role-playing megahit’s expansions for a “discount.” And this move, which mirrors a successful strategy we saw from Dying Light developer Techland in November, shows that developers can get fans to spend a lot more by making them feel like they must act immediately to avoid missing out on a great deal. With console and PC gaming worth tens of billions of dollars, game companies stand to make a lot by maximizing the value they derive from each of their customers.

Publisher Bethesda detailed how it plans to squeeze more from its player base earlier this month. The company revealed three add-ons, and it says it has several more in the works, which is more than it originally had in store. The company used this increase in content to justify raising the price of the season pass by $20, which is something that should increase that average revenue per player. But now we’re seeing that Bethesda didn’t even have to wait to start benefiting from the increased price because the season pass has spent the last two weeks in the top 3 best sellers on Steam. Before that, it wasn’t even in the top 10 and most days it was well outside that.

Fallout 4's season pass is at the top of the Steam charts.

Above: Fallout 4’s season pass is at the top of the Steam charts.

Image Credit: Steam

This is not the first time we’ve seen this with a blockbuster game. In November, developer Techland told fans it was going to raise the price of the downloadable content (DLC) season pass for its open-world survival game Dying Light from $20 to $30. The company gave fans about two weeks of the old price before making that change, and the Dying Light expansions spent much of that time in the top 10 best-sellers on Steam.

Like with Bethesda, Techland said this price increase was due to bigger plans for the DLC.

Newzoo analyst and chief executive officer Peter Warman said that while this might seem new, it is an idea that we’ve seen applied elsewhere in games.

“Price is one of the marketing instruments that is used. This is not new,” he said. “Why it seems new is that traditional game publishers on PC and console that used to only sell [$60 pay-up-front games] are getting smarter in applying new rules. For years, it has been common practice, especially for smaller PC publishers and developers, to play around with a combination of upfront fees and DLC prices.”

As an example, he points to indie developers that make their products available in those Humble Bundle sales where customers can pay what they want for a collection of PC games. Studios don’t make a lot from those deals, but they could potentially then get fans into their game who might want to pay the full price for newly released DLC.

So while we’ve only just started seeing huge publishers attempting this sort of thing by specifically raising the price of their season pass, it’s part of a larger trend that will lead to more of this in the future.

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Google strengthens Gmail security with optical character recognition for attachments

Gmail on Android.

In conjunction with its appearance at the RSA security conference in San Francisco tomorrow, Google announced today that it’s rolling out security enhancements for Gmail. Perhaps the most interesting one is bringing optical character recognition for attachments, such as images and copies of documents. That way, businesses will be able to pick up on the transfer of sensitive information and respond appropriately.

The feature is an addition to the data loss prevention (DLP) feature of Gmail, which became available to Google Apps Unlimited Customers in December. Google Apps admins can use the new feature in association with the content compliance and objectionable content settings in the admin console, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.

Google is also rolling out more granular DLP tools, as Google vice president for security and privacy engineering Gerhard Eschelbeck wrote in a blog post.

“Finally, new predefined detectors offer broader coverage of HIPAA data and personally identifiable information (PII) globally,” Eschelbeck wrote.

Google continues to add to Gmail, which makes sense as it has more than 1 billion users. Enterprise-focused features like this should help the application became more widely adopted in enterprises.

Svbtle’s Dustin Curtis promises the blogging platform will remain online ‘forever’


Dustin Curtis has made a bold promise that his blogging platform and content will remain available on the web “forever.” Svbtle’s chief executive hoped that this guarantee would demonstrate its commitment to the online presence of users, while also helping to gain new ones.

“One of the biggest downsides of investing time and energy into using a new startup’s service is the nearly inevitable fact that, at some point, that startup will likely be acqui-hired and shut down, transitioned into something entirely different, or even completely fail,” Curtis wrote in a blog post. A consequence of these events is the loss of data from millions of users or untold hours spent transitioning to a new service.

With the “Svbtle Promise,” the company will continue to let you publish new content as long as you’re paying $6 per month. Additionally, it promises that should an acquisition be made and “negatively impact the service,” Curtis and his team would do everything in their power to ensure that the site would remain standing and you could still use it.

“We are a small, profitable company with low costs that are covered by paying customers. And while we hope to continue growing, we also hope to maintain a sense of dedication to how we treat our customers’ and users’ data. These promises reflect how we want our own content to be treated. In that way, both the Svbtle service and its customers’ interest are aligned. We like it that way.”

The company said more features are coming later this year, such as design customization where your blog could be more of a place you can call your own, and support for companies interested in using a service that is “dead-simple” and is a “complete solution.” It’ll also working on establishing a efficient network that will better pair readers and writers to help spread ideas and content.

Svbtle started in 2011 in a move to offer users another option to publish their content — Curtis said he was tired of using services that were “incredibly slow, contained endless lists of unnecessary features, had egregious security bugs, and which required me to be heavily locked-in to proprietary networks with little sense of my own identity.” Its launch came about around the same time as Evan Williams’ Medium, which has seen quite a bit of success, including most recently raising $57 million and also opening up a publishing API, WordPress plugin, and adding new content partners.

Play Half-Life 2 in virtual reality with your Razer OSVR headset thanks to Steam

Razer's OSVR headset.

Check out more of our 20th anniversary of Pokémon coverage this week at GamesBeat.

Here’s an excuse to play Half-Life 2 again.

Gaming hardware and peripheral maker Razer announced today that several SteamVR games, including popular hits like Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, are now available to play in virtual reality via OSVR, an open VR software and hardware platform. Users can play OSVR games with the Hacker Development Kit, a headset that costs $300 (which is cheaper than the preorder price for the $600 Oculus Rift and the $800 price of the HTC Vive, which is backed by Valve). Tech adviser Digi-Capital predicts that the virtual and augmented reality markets could grow to $120 billion in revenue by 2020, and having classic games like these available in VR can attract skeptical consumers.

Both Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 are first-person shooters from developer Valve. Half-Life 2 is a single-player adventure, and some consider it as the best game ever made. Team Fortress 2 focuses on team-based competition. Both are older games, but have remained popular with PC gamers. The first-person perspective will help them work well in VR.

“The Hacker Development Kit is designed to be a balance between quality and system requirements, allowing for enjoyment of VR experiences on mid-tier gaming PCs or better,” Razer noted in a press release sent to GamesBeat. “For those with hardware enthusiast/developer level of proficiency, it is also upgradable to get the VR experience you want.”

The spaces-based Elite: Dangerous, racer Live for Speed, and Spermination (I’ll let you guess what that one’s about) are also now available in OSVR.

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Google says it bears ‘some responsibility’ after self-driving car hit bus

A prototype of Google's own self-driving vehicle is seen during a media preview of Google's current autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

(By David Shepardson, Reuters) — Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday it bears “some responsibility” after one of its self-driving cars struck a municipal bus in a minor crash earlier this month.

The crash may be the first case of one of its autonomous cars hitting another vehicle and making an error. The Mountain View, California-based Internet search leader and tech firm said it updated its software after the crash to avoid future incidents.

In a Feb. 23 report filed with California regulators, Google said the crash took place in Mountain View on Feb. 14 when a self-driving Lexus RX450h sought to get around some sandbags in a wide lane.

Google said in the filing the autonomous vehicle was traveling at less than 2 miles per hour, while the bus was moving at about 15 miles per hour.

The vehicle and the test driver “believed the bus would slow or allow the Google (autonomous vehicle) to continue,” it said.

But three seconds later, as the Google car in autonomous mode re-entered the center of the lane, it struck the side of the bus, causing damage to the left front fender, front wheel and a driver side sensor. No one was injured.

Google said in a statement on Monday that “we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision. That said, our test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that.”

The company also said it has reviewed this incident “and thousands of variations on it in our simulator in detail and made refinements to our software. From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles, and we hope to handle situations like this more gracefully in the future.”

There has been no official determination of fault in the crash. Google has previously said that its autonomous vehicles have never been at fault in any crashes.

The Mountain View Police Department said no police report was filed in the incident.

Stacey Hendler Ross, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which operates municipal buses in Mountain View, confirmed the incident occurred, but said she did not know any details.

A spokesman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles said on Monday it will speak to Google to gather additional information, but added “the DMV is not responsible for determining fault.”

A spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment.

The crash comes as Google has been making the case that it should be able to test vehicles without steering wheels and other controls.

In December, Google criticized California for proposing regulations that would require autonomous cars to have a steering wheel, throttle and brake pedals when operating on public roads. A licensed driver would need to be ready to take over if something went wrong.

Google said in November that in six years of its self-driving project, it has been involved in 17 minor accidents during more than two million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined.

“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Google said at the time.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, additional reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Chris Reese, G Crosse)