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New features coming to Google Android system

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google is unveiling a new search tool to help you get the right information at the right time on your mobile device.

Called Google Now, the tool will be part of the next version of Google’s Android operating system, called Jelly Bean. Google Now and other Jelly Bean features will be available in mid-July. Some devices, including the Galaxy Nexus, will get the upgrade automatically over the air.

Google unveiled Jelly Bean in opening a conference in San Francisco for computer programmers. During the conference, Google is also expected to unveil a small tablet computer bearing Google’s brand.

With Google Now, if you say “traffic,” for example, it will look at your usual commute to work and show you alternative routes if there’s a lot of traffic. It will tell you the scores of your favorite sports teams automatically, and it will keep you up to date on flight statuses if you are flying somewhere. You’ll have to activate Google Now to start using it.

Google Inc. said the Google Now feature will get smarter as you use it more.

The feature bears resemblance to the Siri virtual assistant on Apple’s iPhone.

Jelly Bean will also come with the ability to share photos by tapping two phones together, using an emerging wireless technology called near-field communications.

Google said there are a million new Android devices activated daily, up from 400,000 a year ago. Google says there’s particularly fast growth in emerging markets such as Brazil and India. Android is now the chief rival to the mobile software running Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

If speculation about the long-rumored device pans out, the Google tablet is likely be seen more of a threat to Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire than Apple Inc.’s top-selling iPad. More details should emerge Wednesday during the opening speech of a three-day conference in San Francisco for computer programmers.

Like the Kindle Fire, the Google tablet is believed to have a 7-inch screen, measured diagonally _ smaller than the iPad’s nearly 10-inch display. If it’s the smaller size, Google Inc.’s tablet probably would be in the same price range as the Kindle Fire, which sells for $199.

A Google expansion into the tablet market would bring another imposing entrant into what is already a battle of tech heavyweights. Last week, Microsoft Corp. announced its own tablet, Surface. Expected to go on sale this fall, it will run on a revamped version of Windows and compete directly with the iPad.

Google hasn’t revealed who will be delivering Wednesday’s news. It won’t be CEO Larry Page. The company revealed last week that Page recently lost his voice because of an unspecified health problem. The condition isn’t serious enough prevent him from carrying out his duties as CEO.

Although the tablet is supposed to carry the Google brand and be sold by the company, the machine will be made by AsusTek Computer Inc., according to published reports citing unnamed people familiar the product. Google also recently expanded into the device-making business with its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings, but the company has stressed that it intends to continue to rely on Asus and other manufacturers that have embraced Android.

The new tablet is expected to be called the Nexus Seven, a reference to a line of smartphones that Google developed to run on its Android software for mobile phones. The Nexus phones have been made by a variety of manufacturers, too.

Google originally sold the first Nexus phone two years ago exclusively in an online store, but scrapped that idea after a few months.

There are already other Android-powered tablets on the market, but none have proven nearly as popular as the iPad or Kindle Fire. That has raised worries at Google as more people rely on tablets to surf the Internet.

If Apple and Amazon establish themselves as the dominant tablet makers, they could set up their operating systems in ways that de-emphasize Google’s Internet search engine and other services. Apple develops its own system, while Amazon modifies Android for use in Kindles.

Apple already has announced that the next version of the iPad operating system will abandon Google’s digital maps as the built-in navigation system. That shift could cause neighborhood merchants to spend less money advertising on Google.

Google’s new tablet is expected to be the first to run on Jelly Bean.

Analysts are also speculating Google that will introduce another long-rumored product, a home-entertainment system for streaming music.

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