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This Week in Apps: Instagram restricts teens’ accounts, Elon Musk criticizes App Store fees, Google Play’s new policies

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a …

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Pittsburgh Google contractors ratify deal with HCL

Nearly two years ago, contractors for Google’s Pittsburgh operations voted to join the United Steelworkers union in a bid to secure more labor rights representation. It was an early example of a building union movement for tech workers across the spectrum. But as other hard-fought battles have been waged among blue and white collar workers alike, both sides have continued hashing out negotiations. This week, those have finally resulted in something more concrete.
The contract workers held out for what they believed to be similar treatment as others in the tech industry. At the time, it seemed Google was …

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Alphabet Workers Union Giving Structure to Activism at Google 

The Alphabet Workers Union formed in January by Google engineers to give structure to activism is establishing its voice. (Photo by hk on Unsplash) 
By AI Trends Staff  
In a highly unusual undertaking in the technology industry, the Alphabet Workers Union was formed by over 400 Google engineers and other workers in early January. The union now has about 800 members.  
The Alphabet Workers Union is a minority union, representing a fraction of the company’s more than 260,000 full-time employees and contractors. The workers stated at the outset that it was primarily an effort to give structure to activism at Google, rather …

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Another banner quarter as Chromebook shipments grow 75% YOY

Last quarter, Chromebooks saw 275% year-over-year growth up to 12 million units. The figure isn’t quite as unwieldy for Q2, but a 75% year-over-year growth is still extremely respectable, with the category hitting 11.9 million shipments, per the latest figures from research firm, Canalys.
Chromebooks joined the rest of the PC market in getting an overall bump from the pandemic. Standard tablets and PCs saw healthy increases as consumers scrambled to create work from home setups, while Google’s OS got an even larger rise as schools implemented remote learning.
As schools in a number of locations have reopened more than a year …

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„Tech-Freaks“-Podcast – Was Spotify jetzt ändern muss

Hightech für die Ohren: Im wöchentlichen Podcast „Tech-Freaks“ sprechen die BILD-Technikreporter Sven Schirmer und Martin Eisenlauer über Gadgets, Games und das weite Internet.Die Spotify-App ist lieblos165 Millionen Menschen auf der Welt haben ein Spotify-Premium-Abo. Damit liegt der Musik-Streaming-Dienst deutlich vor Konkurrenten wie Apple Music, Amazon Music oder Deezer. So müsste man eigentlich erwarten, dass die App des Dienstes absolut vorbildlich ist.Doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. Im Podcast berichten Sven und Martin von ihrem Frust mit der Spotify-App: Die Suche ist weiter erratisch, die Sortierung der Inhalte katastrophal, und es gibt praktisch keine wertvollen Zusatz-Informationen zur Musik. …

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Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines

Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”
The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.
“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.
The company initially just …

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Google TV mobile app redesign adds new services and recommendations

Following last fall’s debut of Google TV, the new user interface for Chromecast devices, Google is today giving its Google TV companion app for Android a makeover. The updated version of the mobile app for Google TV includes an updated user interface, expanded set recommendations, and more TV and movies to watch.
The app in earlier days was known as “Google Play Movies & TV” (whew!) but rebranded to just “Google TV” alongside the changes that rolled out to Chromecast in September. Here, users can browse over 700,000 movie and TV episodes from across top streaming apps, find new things to …

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Smoking pizza ovens and pilfered dollar bills, or the early story of RapidSOS

The irony of 911 is that it’s a number that everyone knows (at least in the United States), and yet, no one really thinks about it. Few of us will dial 911 more than a handful of times in our lives, and even when we do, we will meet the police officers and paramedics who respond, never the 911 call taker who handled the dispatch. These systems and the people behind them garner meager attention, whether from Congress, state legislatures, the public or anyone else outside the emergency response community.
Except, that is, for Michael Martin.

RapidSOS’ story is one of a …

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Blameless raises $30M to guide companies through their software lifecycle

Site reliability engineering platform Blameless announced Tuesday it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, led by Third Point Ventures with participation from Accel, Decibel and Lightspeed Venture Partners, to bring total funding to over $50 million.
Site reliability engineering (SRE) is an extension of DevOps designed for more complex environments.
Blameless, based in San Mateo, California, emerged from stealth in 2019 after raising both a seed and Series A round, totaling $20 million. Since then, it has turned its business into a blossoming consultancy.
Blameless’ platform provides the context, guardrails and automated workflows so engineering teams are unified in the way …

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Alphabet’s Intrinsic aims to make industrial robots more capable

Alphabet’s public-facing history with robotics has, thus far, been a spotty one. Most notably, Google X’s big acquisition push culminated in its selling Boston Dynamics to Softbank (who eventually flipped it to Hyundai). Alphabet/Google’s subsequent approach has been less flashy and focused on more immediate robotic tasks.
Unveiled today through the X blog, Intrinsic certainly fits the bill. In fact, it’s kind of an ideal take for Alphabet. Effectively, the latest branch of the X Development tree is concerned with software for industrial robotics – those  big, heavy machines that are perhaps not as nimble as …

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