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Sundar Pichai on WFH: Why it currently works for Google, ‘too early’ to determine lasting impact



Tech companies are well-positioned to work from home, with Mark Zuckerberg this week announcing a permanent remote shift for Facebook. Those plans were praised by some and debated by others. In another interview this week, Alphabet/Google CEO Sundar Pichai shared his outlook for work at Google.

Speaking to Wired, Sundar Pichai does expect the nature of work to change due to COVID-19, but thinks “it’s still too early to tell how much.” He makes the case that initial WFH success is “based on a foundation of all of us knowing each other and having the regular interactions we already had.”

I’m curious to see what happens as we get into that three-to-six-month window and we get into things where we are doing something for the first time. How productive will we be when different teams who don’t normally work together have to come together for brainstorming, the creative process?

For example, early on in the pandemic, Google’s onboarding process for new employees was waylaid by equipment shortages. The company will turn to research and, ultimately, data to “learn what works.”

Pichai very much expects the need for physical spaces to congregate when asked by Wired about whether Google is having second thoughts about new campuses in Mountain View and New York:

We have a lot of growth planned ahead. So even if there is some course correction I don’t think our existing footprint is going to be the issue. I am positive we will put it to good use and I’m anxious to see some of those projects get done.

When questioned about the Alphabet parent company structure, Pichai gave an ardent defense of the organization, noting that he was closely involved with its inception in 2015. That said, some new and spun-out divisions have have returned in recent years:

He makes the case that not everything Google — at the time — was interested in fit under the “internet space,” thus requiring a separation as to not overload one management team with very different issues.

The bet was we were investing a lot in foundational deep technology, but not everything would fit in what I would call the internet space. And Alphabet was set up to be able to do that and to have separation from Google because some of the problems are very, very different where you’re applying technology.

Lastly, Wired’s Steven Levy posed a very interesting question about how Google — in its early days — would not pursue a product unless it was 10x or 100x better than competing offerings. When Pichai was asked what he thought Google’s last product to meet that criteria, he cited Assistant as a product in “early stages” of being scaled up.

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Google delays the Android 11 Beta announcement as protests roil US cities




Google had been planning to unveil new features coming in Android 11 on June 3rd, but it has decided to delay the unveiling. In a tweet on Friday evening, Android’s developer account said that “We are excited to tell you more about Android 11, but now is not the time to celebrate.” Google says that it will “be back with more on Android 11, soon,” but did not say when that might be.

Although Google doesn’t explicitly say why, the reason is very clear. The announcement comes as many American cities are filled with protests, looting, and fires. The response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota has extended well beyond the conflict in Minneapolis. The Bay area where Google and most of its employees are based has seen major conflicts in both San Jose and Oakland the evening when Google made the call its event. It’s a brutal night here in the Bay area.

We are excited to tell you more about Android 11, but now is not the time to celebrate. We are postponing the June 3rd event and beta release. We’ll be back with more on Android 11, soon.

— Android Developers (@AndroidDev) May 30, 2020

As our sister site explains:

Protests against the use of excessive force by law enforcement have surfaced around the country, including in Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Columbus, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was arrested on suspicion of forgery and pinned to the ground by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was later pronounced dead at a regional hospital.

The incident follows a series of deaths of unarmed black individuals this year, including 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home in March, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging in an Atlanta, Georgia, neighborhood before being shot by two white men in February.

The uprisings and the government’s response to them have become incredibly serious in the past few days. Not only have feds flown an unarmed Predator drone over Minneapolis, the President’s tweet about looting led to Twitter putting it behind a warning about “glorifying violence.” That kicked off a chain of events ending with an executive order that, if it had a chance of surviving court challenges, would fundamentally change the nature of the entire internet.

On a practical level, Google surely realized few people would be in the mood to get excited about new features in Android. On a human level, delaying the launch was simply the right thing to do.

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Google delays next week’s Android 11 Beta release and virtual launch event




Google this evening announced that it’s delaying next week’s Android 11: The Beta Launch Show. The company on Twitter says “now is not the time to celebrate” in light of ongoing societal protests across the US, including in the San Francisco Bay Area, and will reschedule at a future date.

In lieu of a physical I/O conference, the Android 11: The Beta Launch Show was meant to showcase what’s new in the operating system this year. Set for this upcoming Wednesday, it was due to feature an hour-long keynote and would be followed by a live Q&A session with senior members of the Android team.

Earlier this week, the company posted the list of Android 11 Talks that would also be released that day. They were originally scheduled for I/O 2020 and include the annual “What’s new in Android,” “All things privacy in Android 11,” and “What’s new in Android Development Tools.”

We are excited to tell you more about Android 11, but now is not the time to celebrate. We are postponing the June 3rd event and beta release. We’ll be back with more on Android 11, soon.

— Android Developers (@AndroidDev) May 30, 2020

For app developers and partners, Google tells us this evening that it is not changing the final release schedule for Android 11, which is scheduled for Q3 2020. It will provide updated timing as it becomes available.

The first Android 11 Beta was originally expected this month, but that was delayed as Google “decided to add a bit of extra time” to the release schedule from February. The Android team at the start of the month said that it’s “collaborating remotely and prioritizing the well-being of our families, friends and colleagues.”

As a result, it pushed back Beta 1 and “all subsequent milestones” by about a month, and released Developer Preview 4 instead.

  • Beta 1 will include the final SDK and NDK APIs with this release and open up Google Play publishing for apps targeting Android 11.
  • Beta 2 moves to July. We’ll reach Platform Stability with this release.
  • Beta 3 moves to August and will include release candidate builds for final testing

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Google Stadia 2.19 preps playing on non-‘certified’ phones, free weekends, touch controls, more




Since launch, Google Stadia has been slowly gaining support for more and more Android phones outside of the Google Pixel series. With the release of Stadia for Android version 2.19, it looks like the service is preparing to allow you to play on phones that haven’t yet been “certified,” alongside other new features.

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

As a reminder, the Google Stadia app includes a descriptive text explaining the context that each string will appear in, to be used as a translation guide. Down below, you’ll typically see the descriptive text first followed by the actual string seen in the app.

Non-certified phones

As it is today, you can play Google Stadia directly on your phone from Google’s own Pixel phones, as well as select devices from Samsung, Asus, Razer, and OnePlus. Of course, that still leaves a wealth of devices unsupported by the game streaming service. For those folks who are still left out, it looks Google Stadia appears to be preparing an option to try and play from your phone anyway.

Modal body text describing the user’s current phone not being supported by Stadia for gameplay, but telling them they can opt into a setting with some risk to game playback performance.

Mobile gameplay on this device is in development. Using this feature may affect game performance and can be turned off anytime.

For now, we’re not sure whether the mention of Stadia support on “this device” being “in development” means that this setting will only be available to certain devices. Hopefully that isn’t the case.

Title for user opt-in setting that will enable gameplay support on a device that is not yet certified.

Play on this device

String describing the gameplay opt-in setting.

Support for this mobile device is in development. Using this feature may affect game performance.

The option to play Stadia games on a non-certified device will most likely appear in a new “Experiments” page in the app’s settings. We’re not sure right now what other settings will appear on this page, if any.

A clickable link that will take the user to the Experiments settings page

View in settings

Describes the Stadia Experiments section.

Experiments is where you can try new features that are still in development

Touch controls

Not too long ago, we began uncovering signs of Google Stadia preparing an on-screen touch controller as an alternative to using a proper gaming controller while playing on your phone. We now have stronger evidence of this feature arriving soon.

This button text appears in an in-game notification, providing user the option to play the game via on-screen buttons. Character limit is 25

Try touch gamepad

From the description, we can gather that you’ll be offered the chance to try out the touch gamepad, possibly when you launch a game without a controller or your current controller becomes disconnected.

Alternatively, if the game you’re playing has native support for touch controls — for example, Monopoly offers a touch-optimized controls setting — you should be offered the chance to play using just your phone’s touchscreen.

This button text appears in an in-game notification, providing user the option to play the game via the game’s natively supported touch input. Character limit is 25

Enable touch input

Party chat

The best way to get connected with your fellow players on Google Stadia is via parties and their built-in voice chat, neither of which are currently available on Android. Development on the feature is continuing smoothly, with a variety of new references appearing in version 2.19.

Title for a party chat invite notification which is shown as an action button

Party chat invite

Join party button label

Join party

Notice that appears on the Party Invite panel if the player is invited to a party which is already full.

This party is full, but you can join later if one of the players leave

Beyond these new strings, we’ve found Google has added a significant amount of new code related to party UI and the underlying functionality.

Trials, demos, and free weekends

Right now on Google Stadia, the only way you can play a game is if you’ve purchased it or have claimed it with Stadia Pro. It looks like Stadia is now preparing to let publishers give players limited time access to games through things like demos, trials, and free weekends.

Headline in the Store Details page explaining that the item can be played for free for a limited amount of time.

Play this game free for a limited time

Indicates when a free play period ends.

Play free until

After a trial / demo / free weekend ends

Buy now to continue playing

Importantly, some demos may be exclusive to Stadia Pro members.

Content that is for Pro members only (demos, AOC, etc)

Stadia Pro exclusives

Upcoming sales

Lastly, Stadia version 2.19 has revealed that Google has a significant number of sales planned for the remainder of the year. One of these, branded in the app as “The Summer of Games sale,” could be planned to launch in the coming weeks. There are also references to a number of other common sale windows including back-to-school, Black Friday, and more.

Summer sale

The Summer of Games sale

Back to School sale

Black Friday deals

Holiday deals

End of the Year deals

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