TIME Shopping

People Are Ignoring Store Assistants Because Their Phones Are More Helpful

"Find everything okay?" "Yep, no thanks to you."

If you’re out shopping and would rather get help from your smartphone than an actual person, you’re now in the majority.

A new study by Deloitte found that more than half of in-store shoppers prefer to look up prices, get product information and check item availability using their own smartphones. By comparison, less than a quarter of shoppers prefer to talk to a sales associate. Given the option, 48 percent of shoppers would also rather check out using their own devices, instead of dealing with a cashier.

This isn’t a huge surprise. If you look up prices or product reviews on your phone, you know you’re getting unbiased facts about the product in question. Store associates probably won’t tell you if a product is cheaper elsewhere. They can also be hard to trust for buying advice, especially in the electronics business, where they may be trained to push one brand over another. (Do you really think that “Samsung Experience Consultant” at Best Buy is going to give you an even-handed view of the Galaxy S5 vs. the iPhone 5s?)

Deloitte says retailers should respond by creating mobile applications that focus on making the in-store shopping experience better, rather than just giving them another digital storefront to wade through. That includes providing simple in-store checkout tools and even providing price comparisons to other stores.

“If you stop trying to sell to her, she will buy more,” Deloitte says.

[Engadget]

TIME apps

Google App for Android Adds Nearby Shopping Alerts

google now
Google

Google Now for Android has unleashed a powerful new advertising feature: The predictive service will now alert you when you’re near a store that carries items you’ve searched for using Google in the past.

“You’ve been looking for the perfect pair of hiking boots online, but haven’t gotten around to pulling the trigger. Starting today, if you’re out and about and near a store that carries those boots, you might see a Google Now card showing you the product and price to remind you that you wanted them,” the company explained via Google Plus. “Now all you have to do is pop into the store and check if they’re in stock!”

Google Now already serves you traffic alerts, news stories, stock prices and other information it thinks you’ll find relevant based on your past searches and GPS-determined location. Adding these shopping notifications seems like a natural, if slightly intrusive, fit for the service. Location based ads are hardly a privacy-friendly feature, but that’s part of the tradeoff in using Google Now.

This has been a big week for updates from Google. The company has also released Google Maps 3.0.0, a major new build for the popular navigation app that includes a new Lane Assist feature to make sure you’re ready to make your next turn. And if you don’t feel like leaving home at all, residents of NYC, LA and San Francisco can now take advantage of Google Shopping Express, the company’s free (limited time) same-day delivery service.

You can enable the new Google Now feature by updating the Google Search app on your mobile device. If you don’t already have it installed, you can get Google Search for Android at Google Play.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Nintendo

Here Are the Most Alarming Numbers From Nintendo’s Earnings

Not-so-super Nintendo

Nintendo had another rough fiscal year in 2013, with declining Wii U and 3DS sales making for the company’s third annual operating loss.

Here’s a quick rundown of Nintendo’s numbers for last fiscal year:

  • For the Wii U, Nintendo sold 2.72 million units worldwide, down from 3.45 million units last year. Nintendo had originally projected to sell 9 million Wii U units in 2013. Even Nintendo’s revised estimate of 2.8 million unit sales didn’t pan out.
  • Nintendo 3DS (and 2DS) sales look more impressive, at 12.26 million units combined. But those sales are also down from 13.95 million units in 2012.
  • On the bright side, Nintendo 3DS software sales are way up year-over-year, from 36 million in 2012 to 67.89 million in 2013. The launch of Pokemon X/Y last October was a huge factor, pulling in 12.26 million units worldwide.
  • Overall, Nintendo posted a net loss of 23.2 billion yen (about $228 million) last fiscal year. That’s better, at least, than 2012’s losses of 36.4 billion yen.

Nintendo expects profits of 40 billion yen this year, with help from games like Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, Tomodachi Life for the Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for both platforms. Time will tell if Nintendo ends up revising those 2014 estimates sharply downward as it did last year.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Technologizer

TuneIn’s Revamp Makes Streaming Audio More Social

TuneIn
TuneIn

The online radio service borrows some tricks from Twitter to help listeners discover new stuff

The single service I use most often to listen to radio stations and podcasts–on the web, on my phone and on my iPad–is TuneIn. Oddly enough, though, I’ve rarely discovered anything to listen to there, mostly because its features for searching and browsing shows and stations have been pretty spartan.

Today, however, TuneIn is launching new versions of its site and apps for iOS and Android that aim to make it easier to stumble across content you’ll like, from its 100,000 stations and four million on-demand programs. And it’s doing it by giving itself a social-networking angle especially reminiscent of Twitter.

Up until now, you could “favorite” stations and shows, an action that was essentially just a form of bookmarking so you could find them later. That’s been replaced by following, which works similarly to the way it does on Twitter. You can follow a station or other provider (such as KQED, CNN or Slate), a particular program or a topic, as well as other TuneIn listeners. Other people can see what you follow–assuming you make your profile public. (For current members, profiles are private by default, so people aren’t startled to discover that their listening habits are suddenly visible to others.)

You can also create “Echoes,” which are tweet-style brief messages about a particular audio stream. Content providers, meanwhile, can send out their own echoes and manage their profile pages on TuneIn, which hopes that such companies will be excited about interacting with their fans on a service that–unlike Facebook and Twitter–actually features their audio programming. (The company says that 95 percent of the stations on the service already have more followers on TuneIn than they do on Facebook and Twitter–they just don’t know it yet, because the totals have never been exposed.)

TuneIn uses the items you follow to create a feed of streaming content that represents an evolution of the TuneIn Live interface it introduced in February of last year. Assuming that you actually do take the time to follow a bunch of providers, the feed should ensure that you’ll never launch TuneIn and stare blankly at its Browse section, unsure of where to go next.

I got a preview of the new version and a bit of hands-on time with it on my iPhone. It’s tough to judge it until a fair percentage of the service’s 50 million users and all those content providers get their hands on the update: It’ll only have a big impact on the experience if they want the service to be more social, and take advantage of the new features. It looks promising, though–and I’ve already used it to follow some shows up my listening alley that I’d never, ever have found in the old TuneIn.

TIME Technologizer

Depending on Who’s Counting, Chromebooks Are Either an Enormous Hit or Totally Irrelevant

Dell

The numbers on Google's operating system add up to an utterly confusing picture

I went to Intel’s Chrome OS event this morning, which filled its San Francisco venue to the brim with new devices running Google’s browser-centric operating system and packing powerful Intel chips–scads of new Chromebooks from major hardware makers, Chromebox mini-desktops and even an all-in-one “Chromebase” machine from LG. It was an impressive showing, and I came away lusting after some of the models I saw. (I like my own Chromebook, an 11-inch HP with a Samsung ARM-based processor, but it can be pretty pokey when I open too many tabs.)

As usual at a Chrome OS event, part of the goal was to make the point that Chrome devices are doing well. Figures got quoted: sales rankings and user star ratings at Amazon, and the fact that 10,000 schools have adopted Chromebooks. Certainly, the platform feels viable in a way it once did not. (When Gmail creator Paul Buchheit predicted Chrome OS’s imminent demise in December 2010, it sounded like a perfectly reasonable prognostication.)

Still, the more data points you consider, the harder it is to get a grip on whether Chrome OS is booming, filling a small-but-healthy niche or struggling to matter at all.

Let’s review the available evidence:

Chromebooks took 9.6 percent of U.S. commercial sales of computing devices from January-November 2013, up from almost nothing in 2012.

That’s according to NPD’s figures for the sales channels that target businesses, and it includes the iPad and other tablets as well as laptops and desktop PCs. For a computing platform that barely seemed to be going anywhere a year earlier, that’s a huge deal. And if you count only notebooks, Chromebooks have an even more impressive 21 percent market share. In all, NPD says that 1.76 million Chromebooks shipped through U.S. commercial channels in the first eleven months of the 2013.

image

Only 1 percent of PCs sold worldwide in 2013 were Chromebooks.

In this case the numbers are IDC’s. They’re for the whole planet, not just the U.S., and cover all sales channels, not just business-to-business ones.

IDC says that 2.5 million Chromebooks were sold worldwide in 2013. At first blush, that sounds like it might conceivably jibe with NPD’s figure of 1.76 million units sold in the first 11 months of the year. Except that NPD’s number was for sales to U.S. businesses, while IDC says that “virtually zero” Chromebooks went to enterprises (i.e. corporate customers) and that it’s consumers who are buying them. I can’t reconcile these viewpoints.

Six of the top 20 laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks.

…including two of the top three models. And the single best-selling desktop on Amazon is Asus’s Chromebox. These figures are as of the moment I write this–Amazon updates them hourly–but they always make Chrome OS machines look like hot sellers. Looking at them, I can understand why Microsoft is concerned enough about Chromebooks to helpfully advise people not to buy them.

As of January, Chrome devices accounted for only .2 percent of U.S. and Canada web traffic.

Chitika released that figure in February, and it covers September 2013 through January 2014. It represents a doubling of Chitika’s previous number, but it’s still so puny that you might as well round it down to zero. And in theory, the average Chrome OS user should be online more than a Windows PC or Mac user, since the whole idea is that Chromebooks provide an entirely web-based experience.

image

Disclaimer: Except for the Amazon rankings, all of these stats are at least a few months out of date, and they don’t include some of the data I’m most curious about. For instance, you can buy Chromebooks at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, but I haven’t seen any figures on how they’re doing at these major retailers. (For what it’s worth, I checked BestBuy.com’s laptop section, supposedly sorted with the best sellers up top, and the first Chromebook came in at number 23.)

It’s also possible that all the data points above connect into a coherent story: Chrome OS devices are selling well to U.S. businesses and Amazon customers but barely matter on a global scale, and aren’t yet being used by enough people to add up to meaningful web traffic.

If Chrome OS use is growing rapidly, and continues to do so, I’d expect the picture to be clearer in the months and years to come. But for now, all I know for sure is that both Chrome skeptics and Chrome boosters can point to stats that seem to back up their respective stances. Convenient, isn’t it?

TIME Chromebooks

For Better and for Worse, Chromebooks Have Become PCs

Chromebook
Bloomberg / Getty Images

Chromebooks are no longer a small, focused selection of purpose-built machines, but a sprawling array of increasingly meaningless choices.

If you remember the days when Intel and Microsoft were an unstoppable force, you might be tickled by the former’s newfound love for Chromebooks.

At a press event on Tuesday, Intel heaped praise on machines running Google’s Chrome OS, pointing out how well they’ve been doing on Amazon’s sales charts and in schools. A long list of PC makers lined up to announce new hardware, including new Chromebook laptops and tiny “Chromebox” desktops.

I think Chromebooks are great, but as they gain support within the PC industry, they’re also inheriting the industry’s warts.

I’ve been worried about this scenario for a while now: Chromebooks are no longer a small, focused selection of purpose-built machines. Instead, they’ve become a vast lineup of computers in all shapes and sizes, meant to appeal to every niche. And most of them look pretty dull.

My colleague Doug Aamoth has the nitty gritty details, but in short, we’ve got Chromebooks with long battery life and lightweight processors, Chromebooks with shorter battery life and more powerful processors, bigger Chromebooks, smaller Chromebooks, Chromebooks with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, Chromebooks with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a couple of Chromebooks with touchscreens. It’s a dizzying array of options, and it’s reminiscent of the Windows PC market, whose sagging sales have left Intel and its partners scrambling for alternatives.

The positive way to look at this is that you’ve got lots of choices, and choice is good. Not tickled by the design of Acer’s Core i3-powered Chromebook? Maybe you’ll like Dell’s version a bit better. Not comfortable with just 16 GB of storage? Asus has you covered with 32 GB options.

Here’s the downside: Choosing a Chromebook will become needlessly complicated, as the performance gap between low- and high-end Chromebooks grows wider. Nevermind that the justification for a Core i3 Chromebook is kind of thin–Intel says you might want it for Google+ Hangouts or 3D games–or that 2 GB of RAM can be a drag on multitasking, or that 32 GB of storage is overkill for a cloud-based computer. These are all factors you’ll have to consider when buying a Chromebook now.

The old Chromebook mantra was “speed, simplicity, security,” the implication being that all Chromebooks are fast gateways to the Internet. But that message is muddier now. Instead of making hard choices about what makes a good Chromebook, PC makers are taking the shotgun approach and leaving buyers to sort through the mess.

 

TIME alibaba

Alibaba’s Massive U.S. IPO Could Top Facebook’s Debut

Alibaba founder Ma gestures during celebration of 10th anniversary of Taobao Marketplace, China's largest consumer-focused e-commerce website, in Hangzhou
Alibaba founder Jack Ma gestures during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Taobao Marketplace, China's largest consumer-focused e-commerce website, in Hangzhou, May 10, 2013. China Daily/Reuters

Last year, the Chinese e-commerce business that is part-owned by Yahoo handled $248 billion in transactions, more than Amazon and eBay combined. The company's IPO could be the largest in tech history

Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba has filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public in the U.S., setting the stage for what could become the largest technology stock offering in history.

If successful, Alibaba’s IPO could eventually value the company at substantially more than $150 billion, according to Wall Street analysts, in what would amount to a windfall for Yahoo, which owns 22.6% of the e-commerce giant. Alibaba’s public debut would be the largest ever by a Chinese company in the U.S. public markets.

Alibaba, which was founded 15 years ago by English teacher-turned-entrepreneur Jack Ma, dominates the Chinese e-commerce market, powering four-fifths of all online commerce in that country, according to Reuters. Along with its flagship Taobao website, the company also operates a digital payments service and a cloud computing business.

In its filing with the SEC, Alibaba said it aims to raise $1 billion, but that figure is a placeholder amount used to calculate registration fees. Wall Street analysts believe Alibaba could eventually top Facebook’s 2012 $16 billion IPO, which set a record as the largest technology stock offering in history. Alibaba has yet to decide whether to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq.

Alibaba aims to sell a 12% stake to the public, according to Bloomberg, which could generate as much as $20 billion in new capital for the company. In the coming months, Alibaba will embark on a “road show” designed to woo Wall Street investors. Demand for a piece of the IPO is expected to be intense because Western investors are eager to gain exposure to China’s massive and fast-growing e-commerce market.

Alibaba could eventually have a market valuation of between $150 billion and $200 billion, according to Jeffries technology analyst Brian Pitz, who estimates that Alibaba accounts for about 75% of Yahoo’s valuation, along with other Asian assets and cash holdings.

Yahoo owns 22.6% percent of Alibaba, and is expected to sell a 9% stake, which could generate more than $10 billion for the purple-hued Silicon Valley pioneer depending on the final price of the IPO.

At $200 billion, Alibaba would be worth more than U.S. tech titans Facebook and Amazon, but it would still trail Apple and Google, the world’s two most valuable technology companies. Last year, Alibaba handled $248 billion in online transactions, according to the company’s IPO filing, more than Amazon and eBay combined.

Alibaba’s meteoric growth has been powered by economic and demographic trends in China, including the ongoing emergence of a large, tech-savvy middle class. In its IPO filing, Alibaba cited China’s population of 1.35 billion people, including 618 million Internet users. The company said there are 500 million mobile Internet users and 302 million Internet shoppers in China.

Alibaba said its logistics partners delivered 5 billion packages last year, substantially more than UPS, which delivered 4.3 billion packages globally.

“There is less of a retail culture in China, ie. ‘Let’s go shopping on Sunday,'” Paul Sweeney of Bloomberg Industries told PBS Newshour. “They don’t necessarily have that as much, and as a result, e-commerce has actually grown much faster in China than it has in a lot of the Western markets.”

“The Alibaba opportunity there is tremendous,” Sweeney added. “U.S. and Western investors recognize that. There are very few ways for Western investors to invest in this growth story. Alibaba will be by far the largest, most liquid, and arguably safest investment vehicle.”

Last month, Yahoo reported tepid results for its core business, but the company’s stock jumped 8% based on Alibaba’s revenue, which soared 66% from the year before. The company’s net income was $1.6 billion, more than double the previous year. Yahoo shares moved 1% higher in after-hours trading on Tuesday, following Alibaba’s IPO filing.

“The bottom line is that Yahoo’s stock continues to be driven by Alibaba results,” Macquarie tech analyst Ben Schachter wrote in a recent note to clients. “With its reaccelerating revenue growth and high margins, Yahoo will continue to reap the rewards of its Alibaba holdings.”

Investment banking giants Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citi are listed as underwriters for Alibaba’s stock offering.

TIME Gadgets

Review: AfterShokz’s Bluez 2 Bone Conduction Headset Aces Speech, but Muddles Music

Aftershokz

Aftershokz's Bluetooth headset does just what claims to, so long as you're after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls.

“Bone conduction technology.” It sounds like a gimmick, something you might file on the shelf next to 3D positional audio, high-res music, gold-plated cables and surround-sound cans. It’s not.

In fact, you’ll find it today in breakthrough medical technology like cochlear implants: tiny, surgically implanted electronic devices that can transmit enough sonic information to the listener that even someone mostly deaf can hear sounds and understand speech. If you’re a talk radio devotee, you’re probably aware that Rush Limbaugh uses the latter.

I mention all that because I’ve been test-driving a pair of $100 open ear wireless headphones from Aftershokz for the past few weeks, the Bluez 2, and that’s their claim to fame: “bone conduction technology,” transmitting vibrations produced by a pair of small speaker-pads (sporting what look like rubber shock absorbers abutting your cheekbones) directly to your cochlea. The cochlea, in case you don’t know or remember, would be that spiraling, snail shell portion of your innermost ear you maybe had fun drawing in elementary school biology, that place in your brainpan where fluid jukes and jives reacting to said vibrations, which then get converted into electrical signals that make their way to your brain via neurotransmitters. Imagine a relatively low cost, external headset that can tap directly into that.

The Bluez 2 reminds me a little of an old Sony AM/FM radio headset I used back in the late 1990s — a clunky-looking thing that perched above each of my ears and looped around the back of my head like a wobbly boomerang. Sony’s headset had speakers that rested directly over your earholes and drew its architectural stability from that connective band — all one piece, with no wires or pendulous protuberances. And it took a licking, which is all that mattered to me in that hazy, pre-MP3 era, before the shift from low-fi, functionally minimalist portable audio gear to dragging around microcomputers into which most people I see out running or at the gym still plug headphones today, whether dangling or coiled inside an arm band.

Wireless headsets are a dime ten-dozen nowadays, and bone conduction technology’s not new, but when Aftershokz’s Bluez 2 headset arrived unbidden, looking just enough like that old Sony headset to draw my eye, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve worn it most of each day for the past two weeks and used it as the primary interface to my iPhone 5: listening to audiobooks and music while running outside, and chatting on the phone both indoors and out as well as in the car.

For a Bluetooth device that gets about six hours to a charge and has to generate haptic feedback, my initial reaction putting it on was “Man, is this thing light.” Weighing just 41 grams, it rests almost unnoticeably on your ears, its narrow, glossy black band wrapping behind your head without touching it (Aftershokz includes a reflective sticker you can optionally place on the neck band). If I cared about aesthetics as much as functionality, I’d probably use it in a sentence with words like streamlined and elegant. It doesn’t look half-bad on your noggin, either, though when I wore it out grocery shopping a few weeks ago, someone stopped me to ask if it was Google Glass. (Insert quip about eyes in the back of your head here.)

Let’s talk about the bone conduction angle, since that’s the buzziest buzzword in the mix. Imagine a pair of haptic gamepads strapped to either side of your head like Princess Leia’s cinnamon buns and the vibration-feedback mechanisms in said gamepads jackhammering away. The Bluez 2’s vibrations feel nothing like that, thank goodness, though there’s a slight buzzing sensation that pulses as audio’s conveyed through the audio pads. On my head, the pads align with my temporomandibular joint (the place your lower jaw connects to your skull — it’s right in front of your ear), and that’s where I suspect most are going to feel it. To be clear, it’s strictly vibration-based and not electrical, but it feels a little weird, a bit like someone holding the end of a sonic toothbrush against your cheeks, and that takes some getting used to.

But the benefits are considerable, especially if you’re listening to speech, whether talking on the phone or devouring an audio book. The headset’s speakers are physically positioned in front of your ears, which looks like it can’t possibly work properly, until you realize the sounds are being transmitted and augmented by the vibrating pads, up your cheekbones and through your ear canals. I have narrow ear canals and weird-shaped ears, meaning most earbuds (even with sizing tips) tend to fall out. The upside of Bluez 2’s headset is that it’s one-size-fits-all, and all-fits-comfortably — no fussing with sizers or trying to adjust the speakers to your earhole. And they’re perfectly comfortable for extended sessions, even if placed over a pair of glasses (so long as the temple pieces aren’t too thick). As a glasses-wearer, that’s more than I can say for any other pair of over-the-ear headphones I’ve used.

The other benefit — and I noticed this most while running outdoors in moderately noisy environments (traffic, mostly) — is that speech came through clearly at all times, even while battling a strong headwind. I wound up listening to several hours of the audiobook version of that old 1988 PBS documentary The Power of Myth while testing the Bluez 2, and both Joe Campbell and Bill Moyers came through clearer and more consistently than they ever had using a pair of wired headphones. The same held true when I summoned TuneIn to catch Internet-streamed cable news or local radio. If listening to speech-related audio is your thing, from audiobooks to talk radio to news, Aftershokz’s headset really excels.

I’m sad to say I had the opposite reaction to the Bluez 2’s music playback quality. Paired with my iPhone 5 and the volume set to maximum, XTC’s Skylarking sounded washed together and hollow, as did Elbow’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything, Elton John’s The Diving Board and Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid. And I had difficulty getting the Bluez 2 to play loud enough in even modestly noisy environments. This, despite a product bullet point that boasts of a patented feature Aftershokz calls “PremiumPitch,” which uses dual transducers to “guarantee the finest bone conduction audio.”

I guess that means the finest still has a ways to go: Switching to a pair of low-end, wired Sony MDR-AS20J headphones with loop hangars, the quality upgrade when listening to that same music was startling.

My sense is that where bone conduction technology excels at bulldogging basic audio — especially speech — through your brainpan in noisy environments, it’s comparably poor at conveying even moderate details produced by higher fidelity audio sources. If not being able to listen to music at even moderate quality and volume levels is a deal-breaker, I’d steer clear of this headset, if not bone conduction technology in general. At this point, music and bone conduction feel like a mismatch.

If you’re just looking for something to use as a handsfree headset for voice calls, on the other hand, the Bluez 2 sports dual microphones that worked ably enough in both low and high noise environments. Switching between the headset and Apple’s default iPhone earbuds, the people I called said the audio improved a bit with the earbuds and noted that the Bluez 2’s audio sounded slightly muffled by comparison, but was otherwise fine. I suspect the latter has something to do with noise-cancellation algorithms, the flip side being that in noisier environments, those algorithms helped capture and convey what I was saying more dependably.

Music aside, I’m pretty happy with the Bluez 2 as-is. I wasn’t expecting a revelatory music listening experience (and to be fair, no one’s offering that over Bluetooth at this point), and it does do what it claims to if you’re just after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls. $100 feels about right if the latter’s what you’re after, and that includes an adjustable tension band, a micro-USB charge cable and a smartly designed “breathable” storage pouch with one side mesh to let the headset dry if you’ve soaked it during a workout.

TIME Technologizer

DuckDuckGo, the Anti-Google, Is About to Become a Far More Powerful Google Alternative

DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo

The search engine for the privacy-minded is adding images, videos, news and more

DuckDuckGo is a tiny search engine company with a straightforward value proposition: Unlike Google, Bing and Yahoo Search, it doesn’t track your searches or mine your data for advertising or other purposes. Catering to folks who want to use the web in complete privacy, it’s offered a service that’s pretty good, but very basic.

Now it’s about to get considerably fancier. As I learned from an article by VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber, DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg has blogged about a new version of the site he hopes to launch within the next month. You can try it out in preview form at next.duckduckgo.com.

There’s a ton of new features, including suggestions of searches that appear as you type, images and video search, news, maps locations and products, all woven together into one interface, providing a far more comprehensive substitute for Google than before. But the overall feel is still lean and mean, and results pop up quickly. It looks great.

Which is not to say that it’s come anywhere near catching up with Google in every important respect. For instance, when I searched for “DuckDuckGo” on DuckDuckGo, it didn’t show any of the stories from the last day or so about this new interface, which suggests that it still doesn’t have the real-time understanding of the web that Google nailed years ago. Its news feature is also bare-bones: It only pulled up three items for “Barack Obama.”

DuckDuckGo also doesn’t rival Google does when it comes to providing answers to questions right at the top of its results, in part because it lacks a counterpart to Google’s amazing Knowledge Graph technology. I did notice DDG responding to questions such as “How tall is Will Ferrell?” by pulling the information from Wolfram Alpha. But it doesn’t have answers for queries like “What is Apple’s stock price?” and “Did the Red Sox win yesterday?” Even though both of those questions showed up as search suggestions when I began to type them.

Personally, I hope that this search engine never overdoes it when it comes to the stuff it packs into its results pages: One of the things I like about it is that it’s felt like a time-machine trip back to the early days of Google, when that search engine was obsessively simple and clutter-free. The new version isn’t nearly so stripped down as its predecessor, but retains much of the same minimalist charm.

Will I dump Google for DDG? Nope. Google still has the best search engine going, and I’m not a Googlephobe on principle. It’s also worth noting that it’s possible to use Google search without leaving any tracks: Just use a private-browsing mode such as Chrome’s Incognito and don’t log into a Google Account.

Still, Google dominates search so utterly–its share of all searches worldwide hovers around 70 percent, according to NetMarketShare–that there’s a nightmare scenario in which consumers have no viable alternatives at all. So I’m very happy that DuckDuckGo exists–and impressed that such a small company has put together something as ambitious as this new version.

TIME Computers

Here Are a Bunch of New Intel-Based Chromebooks for 2014

Intel and Google recently partnered up for an event in San Francisco that could safely be referred to as a Chrome-splosion of sorts.

See, Intel understands that Chromebooks – Google’s low-cost, browser-based laptops – are here to stay. Problem is, some of the recent crop of Chromebooks have been using non-Intel processors.

In an effort to get the pendulum to swing back in Intel’s direction, the processor giant is upping its Chromebook lineup from a paltry four models in late 2013 to a whopping 20 to be trotted out over the course of this year.

You’ll have plenty to choose from, in other words. You’ll also need to opt for a Celeron-based model or a Core i3-based model when choosing a Chromebook. The Celeron models will generally be cheaper and able to last longer on a charge – Intel is promising up to 11 hours – while the Core i3 models will be more powerful (no 11-hour battery life promises, though).

Here’s a look at what was just announced, starting with the Celeron models and finishing up with the Core i3 selections. Just to make things interesting, we’ll throw the Chromeboxes in the middle, which use Haswell-based Celeron chips (more powerful but less energy efficient than Bay Trail Celeron chips) and most closely resemble desktop computers.

Bay Trail Celeron

Asus C200 Chromebook

ASUS_C200
Asus

Asus C300 Chromebook

ASUS_C300
Asus
  • 13.3-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in June
  • Price unknown (C200 starts at $250; C300 likely around $300 to $350)

Lenovo N20 Chromebook

N20_Chrome_Standard_03
Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in July
  • Price starting at $279

Lenovo N20p Chromebook

N20p_Chrome_Hero_01
Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch convertible touchscreen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in August
  • Price starting at $329

Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook

  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “this spring”
  • Price starting at $349

Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Yoga Chromebook

Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch convertible touchscreen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “this spring”
  • Price unknown (11e starts at $349; 11e Yoga likely around $400 to $450)

Toshiba Chromebook

Toshiba
  • 13.3-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “over the next few months.”
  • Price unknown (current model starts at $300)

Haswell Celeron

LG Chromebase All-in-One

LG
  • 21.5-inch full-HD (1920×1080) screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU (Haswell)
  • Available May 26
  • Price starting at $349

HP Chromebox

HP
  • Dual-display support (you supply your own) via HDMI and DisplayPort connections
  • Intel Celeron CPU (Haswell)
  • Available in June
  • Price unknown

Core i3

Dell Chromebook 11

Dell
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Core i3 CPU
  • Available “later this year”
  • Price unknown (current model starts at $279)

Acer C720 Chromebook

Acer
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Core i3 CPU
  • Available in June
  • Price starting at $350

Press Release [Intel.com]

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