Google today decided to launch its new Files Go Android app into public beta to reach a wider group of testers. The company had been preparing to announce its new file manager for Android later in December, but those plans were thwarted earlier this week when the app was spotted in the wild during testing. While file management is Files Go’s focus, the app also includes other useful tools, like those that help users recover space by cleaning up unnecessary clutter, as well as a file transfer utility that works offline using Bluetooth.
The company quietly announced the wider beta opening of Files Go this morning, via a tweet.
Essentially, Google has decided to capitalize on the interest in the new app, thanks to its exposure through media coverage. Instead of continuing to keep quiet about its plans, as before, it instead opened up Files Go to beta testers who want to get a first look ahead of the public launch.
The beta app has now returned to Google Play where it’s listed as “Files Go Beta: Free up space on your phone (Unreleased).”
The description, as before, details its features – including its ability to help locate and delete spam and duplicate photos; support for offline file sharing; its file management utility; and its tool that recommends which of your rarely-used apps could be removed to help free up space on your phone.
Files Go is a free download here on Google Play.
IBM has been offering quantum computing as a cloud service since last year when it came out with a 5 qubit version of the advanced computers. Today, the company announced that it’s releasing 20-qubit quantum computers, quite a leap in just 18 months. A qubit is a single unit of quantum information.
The company also announced that IBM researchers had successfully built a 50 qubit prototype, which is the next milestone for quantum computing, but it’s unclear when we will see this commercially available.
While the earliest versions of IBM’s quantum computers were offered for free to build a community of users, and help educate people on programming and using these machines, today’s announcement is the first commercial offering. It will be available by the end of the year.
Quantum computing is a difficult area of technology to understand. Instead of being built on machines interpreting zeroes and ones in on/off states, quantum computers can live in multiple states. This creates all kinds of new programming possibilities and requires new software and systems to build programs that can work with this way of computing.
Dario Gil, IBM Research VP of AI and IBM Q, says the increased number qubits is only part of the story. The more Qubits you deal with, the more complex the qubit interactions become because they interact with one another in a process called entanglement. If you have more qubits, but there is a high error rate as they interact, then they might not be any more powerful than 5 qubit machine with a lower error rate. He says that IBM researchers have managed to achieve the higher qubit number with low error rates, making them highly useful to researchers. “We have more qubits and less errors, which is combined to solve more problems,” Gil said.
The other issue that comes into play when dealing with quantum states is that they tend to exist for a short period of time in a process known as coherence. It basically means that you only have a brief window of time before the qubits revert to a classical computing state of zeroes and ones. To give you a sense of how this coherence has been progressing, it was just a few nanoseconds when researchers started looking at this in the late 90s. Even as recently as last year, they were able to achieve coherence times of 47 and 50 microseconds for the 5 qubit machines. Today’s quantum machines are in the 90 microsecond range. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually a huge leap forward.
All of these variables make it difficult for a programmer to build a quantum algorithm that can achieve something useful without errors and before it reverts to a classical state, but that doesn’t take away from just how far researchers have come in recent years, and how big today’s announcement is in the quantum computing world.
The ultimate goal of quantum computing is a fault tolerant universal system that automatically fixes errors and has unlimited coherence. “The holy grail is fault-tolerant universal quantum computing. Today, we are creating approximate universal, meaning it can perform arbitrary operations and programs, but it’s approximating so that I have to live with errors and a [limited] window of time to perform the operations,” Gil explained.
He sees this is an incremental process and today’s announcement is a step along the path, but he believes that even what they can do today is quite powerful. With today’s release and the improvements that IBM made to the QISKit, a software development kit (SDK) to help companies understand how to program quantum computers, they can continue to advance the technology. It’s not going to happen overnight, but companies, governments, universities and interested parties are undertaking research to see how this can work in practical application. (And of course, IBM isn’t the only company working on this problem.)
IBM sees applications for quantum computing in areas like medicine, drug discovery and materials science as this technology advances and becomes better understood. It is also trying to anticipate possible negative consequences of an advanced technology such as the ability to eventually be able to break encryption. Gil says they are working with standards bodies to try and develop post-quantum computing encryption algorithms, and while they are a long way from achieving that, they certainly seem to understand the magnitude of the issues and are trying to mitigate them.
Google is preparing to soon launch a new mobile app called Files Go that will allow Android users to better manage the files on their phone, transfer those files easily – even when offline – as well as free up storage space on their devices as needed. The app will become available to users worldwide in early December.
Files Go was first spotted by 9to5Google on the Play Store, where it was available in an early access program for testing purposes. The test was full, but the site was able to get a sneak peek at the app’s features by reading the description and viewing screenshots.
It appears that Files Go is basically part file manager, part file transfer utility, and part clean up wizard. The main interface shows an overview of how much storage space is being used by files and offers tools to clean the app cache, or browse through other areas where files may have accumulated – like those received from a chat application, for example.
Another screen offers a list of file types, like Images, Videos, and Audio, as well as a section for “Received” files.
As you dive into the various sections, you can then filter the files by source for easier discovery, access, or deletion. For instance, you can choose to display only files from the camera, those that are screenshots, those from a chat application, and so on.
Of course, Google already offers a clean up utility as part of its Google Photos application, but Files Go has a broader focus that’s not just limited to photos and video.
In addition, one of the more notable features in Files Go is a file transfer utility that works over Bluetooth, meaning users could share files with others, even if offline. This appears to be an Android-flavored version of Apple’s AirDrop, which also uses Bluetooth to share things like photos, videos, documents and contacts with nearby Apple devices.
However, Files Go’s screenshot indicates that both users will have to have the app open to send and receive files at the time of transfer.
Some reports about the new app speculated that Files Go is being developed for emerging markets only, noting its offline capabilities and the “Go” branding – the latter which also seems to reference Android Go, Google’s lightweight version of Android for cheaper phones.
We understand, however, that Files Go will be made globally available at launch in the beginning of December.
Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson confirmed the app’s existence in the following statement:
“We are always doing experiments on ways to help users get the most from their smartphones. We have nothing specific to announce at this time.”