Weekly Bytes | Google Meet’s free ‘unlimited’ calls extended, Facebook CRO to leave company, and more

Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

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Google extends free ‘unlimited’ Meet calls till June

Google has once again extended ‘unlimited’ Meet calls for free users by six months. “We’re continuing unlimited #GoogleMeet calls (up to 24 hours) in the free version through June 2021 for Gmail accounts,” the tech giant wrote in a tweet. This is the second time the company has extended free Meet calls. Last April, the search giant had announced Meet’s availability for free to everyone with a Google account, and had said the time limit will be capped to 60 minutes per meeting post-September 2020. However, in September last year, the company extended the unlimited Meet calls till March 2021. Since April last year, Google has added numerous enhancements to the video-conferencing platform for its users. This week, Google also launched its version of CamScanner app.

Facebook CRO David Fischer to leave the company

Facebook CRO David Fischer, announced on Tuesday that he will leave the company toward the end of the year. Fisher is responsible for Facebook’s advertising business and manages the sales and marketing teams worldwide. “I am immensely proud of all that we have accomplished over the past eleven years, and am optimistic about the path the company is on, he wrote in a Facebook post. Fisher’s departure comes at a time when Facebook is gearing up to incorporate Apple’s privacy changes that could dent the social network’s ad revenue. “I expect to be at Facebook into the fall and will be focused on advancing our mission and ensuring a smooth transition,” he said. In another update, Facebook will now allow users and page admins control who can comment on their posts.

LinkedIn is developing Clubhouse rival

Professional networking platform, LinkedIn, is working on a Clubhouse-like audio feature, according to a report by TechCrunch. “We’re doing some early tests to create a unique audio experience connected to your professional identity. And, we’re looking at how we can bring audio to other parts of LinkedIn such as events and groups, to give our members even more ways to connect to their community,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said in the report. Meanwhile, other companies like Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, and ByteDance are working on their Clubhouse-like audio feature. Clubhouse, an invite-only audio chat app for iPhone users, gained popularity after Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev’s chat. This week, LinkedIn also introduced new tools like an option to upload a short profile video, Creator mode, and extended its global skills initiative with Microsoft.

Mozilla’s new feature to fix broken page issue

Web browser Mozilla Firefox has added a new privacy feature, ‘SmartBlock’, to keep out third-party trackers and enable private browsing. The feature will be available in the latest version of Firefox 87. The browser already has an in-built content-blocking feature that automatically blocks third-party content. But, it has issues like images not loading, features not working, poor performance, and at times, the entire page not loading. SmartBlock is said to fix broken web pages using tracking protections, without compromising users’ privacy. This will be done by providing local stand-ins for blocked third-party tracking scripts. In another development, Google is rolling out Federated Learning of Cohorts, its replacement for third-party cookies, as a developer origin trial in Chrome.

iOS 14.5 to fix battery health reporting bug

Apple’s iOS 14.5 will include a fix to address inaccurate estimates of battery health reporting on iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to an Apple support page. “Symptoms of this bug include unexpected battery drain behaviour or, in a small number of instances, reduced peak performance capability,” the company noted. The system will recalibrate maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability on these devices, it added. While the system is recalibrating users will see a message in Settings. “In a small number of instances, recalibration might not be successful, and a new battery service message will appear. If this occurs, an Apple Authorized Service Provider can replace the battery free of charge to restore full performance and capacity,” Apple said. In another update, Apple’s watch and iPhone could supplement or replace in-clinic tests for a fraction of patients with cardiovascular diseases, according to a study.

Xiaomi enters electric vehicle business

Chinese smartphone maker, Xiaomi, announced on Tuesday that it is starting a new smart electric vehicle (EV) business. The company will set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to operate the EV business, it said. The initial phase of investment will be 10 billion yuan (about $1.52 billion), with the total investment amount over the course of the next 10 years estimated to be $10 billion, the firm noted. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun will concurrently serve as the CEO of the smart EV business, it added. In January, another Chinese technology company, Baidu Inc, announced its plans to enter smart electric vehicle business. In another development, car maker Ford and tech firm Hewlett-Packard (HP) have come together to transform 3D waste, like printed powders and parts, into vehicle components.

CD Projekt Red releases big patch for Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt has released patch 1.2 for Cyberpunk 2077 with over 500 fixes. Patch 1.2, now available on PC, consoles, and Google Stadia, includes changes in gameplay, quests, cinematic design, graphics, audio, animation, user interface, stability, and performance. CD Projekt had originally planned to release patch 1.2 in February, however, the Polish game developer had to delay the delivery of the patch after it was hit by a targeted ransomware attack. CD Projekt also announced key goals for the coming years, including a transformation of the studio and a change in the way it develops videogames, which will ultimately enable it, starting in 2022, to work on multiple AAA games. In another gaming update, Microsoft introduced Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal wireless headphones for gamers.

Arm launches v9 architecture

Arm on Tuesday introduced the v9 architecture, which the company claims, is its solution to the future needs of artificial intelligence (AI), security, and specialised computing. Armv9 is the first new Arm architecture in a decade. “It [Armv9] will be at the forefront of the next 300 billion Arm-based chips driven by the demand for pervasive specialised, secure and powerful processing built on the economics, design freedom and accessibility of general-purpose compute,” Arm CEO Simon Segars, said in a statement. Additionally, the company is developing several technologies to increase frequency, bandwidth, and cache size, and reduce memory latency to maximise the performance of Armv9-based CPUs, it said. In another development, India is offering more than $1 billion in cash to each semiconductor company that sets up manufacturing units in the country.

(With inputs from Sowmya Ramasubramanian)

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