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Google Flexes Cloud Muscle Through Android Apps

With help from its considerable computing infrastructure, Google is delivering new mobile applications that make it easier than ever to find and manipulate online information.

At a media event in its San Francisco office on Thursday, Google introduced two new mobile apps for Android devices that highlight the rapidly growing computing power available to mobile users.

Google product management director Hugo Barra showed off a new feature of the Voice Search app called Voice Actions for Android, a set of spoken commands that perform specified actions, like sending a text message. He also demonstrated an updated Chrome-to-Phone extension, which allows users to automatically transfer data like maps and URLs from a Chrome browser to an Android device.

Barra described how in the past decade the processing power of mobile devices has increased from 400 MIPS when Palm phones were introduced to over 2000 MIPS with Google's Nexus One.

But such steady increases in computational prowess pale beside advances in wireless connectivity and cloud computing infrastructure, he suggested. Today's 4G phone can tap clusters of tens of thousands of computers. "That 2000 MIPS device has access to 2 billion MIPS, a million times its native computing capability," he said.

It's a theme Google has sounded before, a not-so-subtle reminder of who has the biggest Web index and most powerful computing infrastructure. But it seems less like swagger when Google's cloud produces practical results, like accurately answering a spoken search query.

Access to massive computing power in the cloud, Barra said, is changing the way Google designs products and where it invests. "The impossible is becoming possible," he said.

It's been two years since Google first introduced Voice Search for mobile devices and since then its popularity has grown to the point where 25% of queries on Android 2+ devices are voice searches. "Our users love this stuff," insisted Barra.

Indeed, the ability to speak a query and have it accurately transcribed is great when it works. And it now works most of the time, thanks to the vast amounts of search data Google can use to refine and divine voice queries.

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