In big win, Apple hires Google AI chief John Giannandrea away from Google

Earlier this week, we reported on personnel changes within Google’s search organization: Ben Gomes will now be in charge of all search, and Jeff Dean is taking on leadership of Google Brain and AI. The changes come as Google SVP of Engineering John Giannandrea moves to Apple to run AI efforts there.
Giannandrea “will run Apple’s machine learning and AI strategy,” according to reports. He will also report directly to the company’s CEO, Tim Cook.
While Google has a “deep bench” in AI, the move is still a loss for Google and a win for Apple. Giannandrea was instrumental in infusing AI into all of Google’s main products, including search. He came originally from Metaweb when Google acquired the company in 2010.
Google’s focus and emphasis on AI is such that at an event last year in San Francisco, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “We’re moving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world.”
It’s not clear from statements and published reports

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Google is extending Search capabilities to iMessage and other browser apps on iOS

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Google announced on Monday a couple of integrations to extend Google Search functionality to more apps on iOS. They include extensions for iMessage and browser apps such as Safari.
First, a look at the new iMessage extension, which allows users to search Google and share results with those they’re chatting with in iMessage. To activate the new functionality, click on the App Store icon next to the message field in an iMessage chat to bring up the iMessage apps drawer. Then select the Google app icon to see the options below (You’ll need to have the app installed on your iPhone). You can search or click one of the shortcut buttons to bring up related results.
Clicking on the “Food” icon, for example, will bring up a list of cards for nearby restaurants. Clicking “Share” in any of the cards will add the listing to the iMessage chat.
It appears that if you click through on any

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Google Assistant adds new media capabilities ahead of HomePod release

The Google Assistant has been updated to make entertainment content more accessible to voice control. The company announced today that users can set alarms to play a favorite song, playlist or radio station instead of a loud, unpleasant alarm sound.
Users invoke this by speaking, “Hey Google, set an alarm for 6 a.m. that plays [insert favorite musician].” This is optimized for Google Play Music but will work with other services as well (e.g., Pandora).
Google added that you can now ask for TV show schedules using the Google Assistant. You can also set reminders so you can catch shows at specific dates and times. The Google Assistant can control TV programming as well.
This isn’t entirely new; users can “cast” content to their TVs from the Assistant on Netflix, YouTube TV and a couple of other sources. If you’ve linked your Netflix account to Google Home, you can now say “Watch XYZ show . . . “ and the

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Apple says HomePod is finally coming on February 9, but can it compete?

Having missed the holiday shopping cycle, Apple is finally releasing its HomePod smart speaker on February 9. It will initially be available in the US, the UK and Australia and later “this spring” in France and Germany.
With its higher price ($349) and late entrance, Apple is definitely an underdog versus Amazon and Google. There’s evidence that more than 40 million smart speaker units are already in US homes, the majority of which are Amazon Alexa devices. However, there are roughly 125 million households in the US, so the market is far from saturated, and there’s some indication of demand for HomePod.
Many of the devices sold, however, have been at the low end of the market (Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot). Apple has no such lower-end offering and has positioned its HomePod as a premium speaker, competing with Sonos (which has a version with Alexa). The company is also using HomePod to promote Apple Music.
Unlike Google Home

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Apple Search Ads expanding to Canada, Mexico & Switzerland

The Apple App Store has announced it is expanding support for Search Ads into Canada, Mexico and Switzerland.
Apple released Search Ads for the App Store a little over a year ago, with previous support limited to the US, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.
Apple’s Search Ad product is the iOS version of what Google Play has offered in its store for Android devices since 2015. Both are aimed at driving app discovery by users.
Search Ads are generated automatically from app metadata, with advertisers setting a daily or total campaign budget. Ads appear based on keyword searches specified by advertisers, along with demographic segments such as gender, age and location. Advertisers can also separate bids by device: one bid for iPhone users, another for iPad users.
A hands-on review of Apple’s Search Ads upon its release in the UK outlines the pros and cons of the platform, along with some items to look out for.
Apple is still offering a $100 USD

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Report: Google to debut ‘Home Mini’ smart speaker for $49 on October 4

Google is set to reveal the Pixel 2 smartphone and potentially other hardware at an event on October 4, in time for holiday shopping. While the Pixel 2 is set to be the star of the event, a prominent supporting role will be played by the new “Google Home Mini.”
This is apparently Google’s answer to the low-cost Amazon Echo Dot. According to Droid Life, it will be priced comparably at $49 and be available in three colors.

Image credit: Droid Life
The device will support the Google Assistant and reportedly will provide the same functionality as Google Home. It’s all but certain the sound quality won’t be as good. And there may be other hardware compromises to bring costs down. It will very likely broaden the market for Google Home and the Google Assistant.
Amazon has created multiple Alexa devices for different budgets:

Dot — $49
Echo Tap — $129
Echo — $179
Echo Show — $229

Amazon often discounts the devices and offers multiple purchase

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Augmented Reality: Where are we now, and what does it mean for marketers?

Summer 2016 seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Barack Obama was president, the Chicago Cubs were carrying on their 108-year losing streak and swimmer Ryan Lochte was busy fabricating a story about getting robbed at gunpoint while representing the US at the Rio Olympic Games.
One of the biggest digital stories to come out of last year was the meteoric rise of Pokémon Go. The mobile game brought augmented reality (AR) to the masses and effectively demonstrated the technology’s potential as a new platform for customer engagement.
Pokémon Go disappeared from the limelight almost as quickly as it appeared, solidifying its place as a pop culture curiosity that will almost certainly be covered in an “I Love the ’80s”-esque retrospective 20 years from now.
Pokémon Go’s story may be over for most, but what about its underlying technology? How has that fared over the past 12 months?
Well, augmented reality isn’t just for gamers anymore. It can be a major asset for

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Analyst: Google’s default search deal worth $3 billion to frenemy Apple

As Apple and Google became direct competitors following the rise of Android, industry observers wondered if (and anticipated that) someday, Apple would cease to offer Google as the iPhone’s default search engine. And while Cupertino has diversified away from Google, via Spolight Search, Siri and Bing, Google is still the dominant search tool on the iPhone.
Now, a Wall Street analyst, Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein, speculates that Apple may collect as much as $3 billion in “services” revenue this fiscal year from Google. Extrapolating from an initial 2014 court disclosure that Apple received $1 billion from Google as traffic acquisition costs (TAC) for default search placement, the Bernstein analyst estimated a growth curve from there.
The belief is that the structure of the relationship between Google and Apple is a revenue share based on paid clicks generated by iOS devices — perhaps on top of a fee. Sacconaghi was quoted by CNBC saying, “Given that Google payments are nearly all profit

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Apple Search Ads: Still tapping after 6 months of testing

It’s been five months since Apple expanded their Apple Search Ads program to advertisers in three additional countries (UK, New Zealand and Australia). After its initial, US-only launch in October 2016, I was really excited to finally get to test out this brand-new platform when it finally launched in the UK.
Now that I’ve had some time to experiment with it, I’m going to discuss what I like, dislike and hope to see in the future across this new and exciting platform. I want to share my own experiences here in the hope that anyone looking to test some Apple Search Ads campaigns in the future can get started as soon as possible.
One of the reasons I was so interested in Apple Search Ads is how booming the app market is globally, with 2.2 million apps available in the App Store alone as of March 2017. Furthermore, according to research by Flurry, the mobile browser is effectively dead

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Apple reportedly hiring dozens of new mapping experts and engineers

According to a CNBC report, Apple is on a hiring spree. The company is seeking to add scores of mapping experts and engineers. According to the report:
More than 70 job listings went live in the past month on the company’s site relating to its maps team, or requiring skills around things like: “geospatial information services,” “navigational aids” and “fleet management.”
Apple Maps, which has quietly been improving over time, still suffers from a less-than-stellar reputation from its botched launch in 2012. However, the new hires will be supporting initiatives around augmented reality and “autonomous systems.”
Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook said about both topics during this week’s earnings call.
On augmented reality: 

One of the most exciting and most promising announcements from WWDC was the introduction of ARKit, a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps. It’s still early in the beta period, but it’s clear that ARKit has captured the imagination of our developer community .

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