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Google lays out new features to keep users clicking after lockdown

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By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) -Alphabet Inc’s Google on Tuesday unveiled updates across many services, including Maps and Docs, as the company showcases its role in a world that has become more digitally connected during the pandemic.

Google’s search, video-conferencing and other tools have been increasingly used in the past year as lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions forced people to shop and communicate online.

With in-person activities resuming, Google is out to make a case it can remain relevant and compete with services from Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and others, including through features that foster hybrid working set-ups.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai is headlining a two-hour livestream on Tuesday as part of Google I/O, the company’s annual three-day developer conference. The forum was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 and has a mostly virtual audience this year.

Pichai on Tuesday touted an effort to help drivers using Google Maps reduce sudden braking by navigating them on “safer” routes, and Google also shared new editing and viewing options for Google Docs and other collaboration tools.

Later, Pichai also may highlight Google’s progress on issues that have become bigger priorities for Corporate America over the past year, including climate change and racial justice. He has called for features, such as eco-friendly directions in Maps, that help users live more sustainably, and has sought to ensure Google technology works well for people of all backgrounds.

Increasing data privacy and expanding various subscription businesses have been other areas of focus, along with improving the performance of products through artificial intelligence (AI), custom computer chips and potentially quantum computing.

I/O is normally held outdoors near Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, with thousands of software developers from major companies and startups attending to learn about new programming options to jazz up their apps.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.Additional reporting by Subrat Patnaik in BengaluruEditing by Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis)

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