ChatGPT may be plotting to replace Google Assistant on your Android phone, ahead of its landmark bot store launch

We can't say for sure whether or not AI is secretly plotting world domination – but it does appear that ChatGPT developer OpenAI has designs on replacing Google Assistant as the default helper tool on Android devices.

Some digging by the team at Android Authority has revealed hidden code in the latest version of the ChatGPT app for Android: code that triggers a small pop-up prompt at the bottom of the screen, just like Google Assistant (or Siri on the iPhone).

The thinking is that you wouldn't have to launch ChatGPT for Android to get answers from the AI bot – you could just hold down a shortcut button, or even say “hey ChatGPT”. There also seems to be a new tile in the works for the Quick Settings panel on Android, giving users another way of getting to ChatGPT.

This wouldn't exactly be a hostile coup – Android already allows the default digital assistant app to be switched, to something like Alexa or Bixby – but it's interesting that OpenAI wants to expand the reach of ChatGPT. As always though, plans can change, so it's not certain that we'll see this functionality appear.

Store opening

In other ChatGPT news, the GPT Store that OpenAI promised last year is now scheduled to launch next week, after a delay – as per emails sent out to people signed up to a paid ChatGPT plan. It means users can create their own bespoke versions of ChatGPT and sell them on to other people and businesses.

These GPTs – or generative pre-trained transformers – are built on the same well of training data as ChatGPT, but they can be tweaked to take on specific personalities or accomplish particular tasks. Some rather obvious examples would be a bot that helps with tech support questions, or one that comes up with recipes.

Custom bots can also be loaded up with knowledge from outside OpenAI's vaults – so if you've written a hundred scientific papers on dinosaur fossils, for example, you're able to plug all of this data into a GPT and ask questions about the research. Right now, you need a ChatGPT Plus or Enterprise account to build a bot.

OpenAI is no doubt trying to foster the same kind of innovation and growth that we've seen in smartphone apps, ever since Apple opened the iPhone App Store in 2008. However, at the moment we're still waiting on a lot of details, including how users can get verified, and how sales revenue will be split.

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Google Chat will officially replace Hangouts within weeks

Google has finally confirmed the date when it will be closing its Hangouts instant messaging service for good.

The company has revealed that enterprise and business users on “Classic Hangouts” will be upgraded to the new Google Chat service by March 22, 2022.

In a blog post, the company added that the move will ensure all Google Workspace customers will be using the same platform, with anyone trying to access Hangouts being redirected across to Google Chat.

Farewell Google Hangouts

The news brings an end to a rather protracted saga for Google that saw it extend the deadline for Hangouts' retirement several times.

News of a move first emerged in October 2019, with Hangouts officially rebranded as Google Chat for what was then G Suite enterprise users back in November 2020, and user migration over to the new service beginning the following month.

The news came as Google also revealed it would rebrand its video conferencing service (then Hangouts Meet) to Google Meet.

Now, the “final phase” of the migration will be complete within weeks, with Google noting that “it is not possible to opt out of this change”, and that all classic Hangouts applications will also be disabled, including the Android and iOS apps.

However, users will be able to export their historic Hangouts and Chat data using a special Google tool.

The change will not affect Hangouts users with only personal Google accounts, but it's likely that they will see a similar change soon.

For now, if your organization’s Google Workspace Admin console setting is set to “Chat and classic Hangouts,” the automatic upgrade to the new platform will occur “over the course of three weeks starting March 22, 2022.”

Customers with the “Classic Hangouts only” setting will be upgraded over the course of five weeks, starting April 4, 2022. 

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Tape could replace hard drives – in some cases – thanks to this breakthrough

Fujitsu has announced a new technology called Virtual Integrated File System that it says could help magnetic tape storage compete with hard disk drives as a low-cost, large capacity storage alternative.

With the feud between Sony and Fujitsu around LTO resolved late last year, all eyes are now on LTO-9, which is expected to be delivered in 2020. This iteration will deliver capacities up to 26.1TB (uncompressed) and raw throughput of up to 708MB/sec.

That’s a higher capacity than the largest hard drive on the market (currently 20TB) –  also faster and likely cheaper too. Add in on-the-fly compression capabilities and, suddenly, it's all looking rosy for the venerable tape. 

Hacking the file system

Fujitsu's Virtual Integrated File System (VIFS) allows “multiple tape cartridges to be consolidated into one”, which means users can access data without worrying about individual tape cartridges.

It sounds a little like RAID but for tapes, which means that you'll likely need multiple tape drives or a tape library. This limits the product to enterprise and large businesses, where storage demands are usually measured in Petabytes and Exabytes.

The Japanese company claims to have improved the read speeds by more than fourfold in one trial run, while another test yielded a speed improvement of nearly 2X.

“This technology enables high-speed tape access performance, such as random reads and writes of various sizes occurring in archive applications, and is expected to provide a cost-effective data archiving infrastructure for long-term archiving of large volumes of data," Fujitsu added.

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