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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

The countdown is over. Santa and his elves have been preparing around the clock for the big day, opening up new pieces of Santa’s Village throughout the month. Santa’s been skydiving, the elves catapulted presents, and Santa even sent custom voice messages to friends and family.

The elves are now reporting that the sleigh is ready for takeoff!
Join Santa as he delivers presents around the globe. Whether you’re in Sydney or South Dakota, hop in the driver’s seat by checking out Santa’s Dash(er) Board. See where Santa’s been, where he’s going, and his real-time jolly status ("mmm, those cookies were delicious!”). Don’t forget to check out the photos and local info for places he visits on the route.
For the next 24 hours, tune in on your desktop, tablet, or phone to the Santa Tracker website.  Still worried you’ll miss a minute of Santa’s big day? The developer elves have been hard at work so you can:

And follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s journey around the world.

With more than 300,000 kilometers to go, Santa’s got a lot of the map to cover. So set out those cookies and a glass of milk and get ready to #tracksanta!

Posted by Brian McClendon, Vice President, Google Maps

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In “The Hobbit,” a company of Dwarves tries to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor from Smaug the Terrible, a fire-breathing Dragon. While the Dwarves’ quest is fraught with danger, your journey to Erebor is just a click away in “A Journey Through Middle-earth,” the Chrome Experiment released a few weeks ago from Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM).

You can now follow the Dwarves’ journey to Erebor and try to outsmart Smaug on your desktop, mobile phone or tablet. But it might be wise to first pay a little visit to the folks who live in nearby Thranduil’s Hall and Lake-town—locations that recently became accessible in this Chrome Experiment—just in case you need their help against the mighty Dragon.
To get ready for your journey you may want to stop by Google Play. There you'll find all sorts of Hobbit-related apps, games, books, music and films*. Together with the recent recording of a Google+ Hangout with director Peter Jackson and actors Evangeline Lilly and Richard Armitage, these can also help you get up to speed for the upcoming release in theaters of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

And for those of you more interested in web development than Dragon-slaying, check out the second technical case study on “A Journey Through Middle-earth” (the first one is already available on HTML5 Rocks). You can also watch a Hangout with North Kingdom, the team of designers and hackers who built it, on December 18. We'll be posting more updates for the developer community on +Google Chrome Developers.

Adrian Soghoian, Product Marketing Manager & a Fool of a Took

* Available content and promotions vary by country.

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Dell has a long history of serving schools’ education technology needs. Today, they join the Google for Education family, announcing the new Dell Chromebook 11.

The new Dell Chromebook 11

The Dell Chromebook 11 was designed with schools in mind. The battery lasts up to 10 hours -- enough for a full school day plus homework -- and boots up in 8.4 seconds. It is light and highly portable, making it ideal for student use at home or on the go. And like all Chromebooks, it includes the cutting edge in security features, keeping schools protected from online threats. The device will be available in two versions - 4GB in January 2014 and 2GB in Q1 2014 - both for under $300.



“Dell asked for and listened to feedback about what our district needs in a laptop so we can ensure the best teaching and learning experiences across our schools. Simplicity in rolling out and managing the Chromebooks was really important to us because we only have a crew of six IT team members to manage 13,000 students. We also know that students can be tough on the technology, so we really appreciate the durable screen and robust power supply the Dell Chromebook 11 offers.”

--Bryan Phillips, Chief Technology Officer, Hoover City School District, Alabama

Verified for 2014 Assessments
The new Dell Chromebook 11 joins a family of 5 other Chromebooks that are verified for the latest education assessments. Both Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) verified that all Chromebooks meet their requirements for standardized assessments in the 2014-2015 school year. With the shift toward online assessments and the Common Core State Standards, Chromebooks are helping schools achieve their goals.

To learn more about Chromebooks for Education, please visit our website and fill out our contact form to speak with a member of our team.

Posted by Caesar Sengupta, VP, Product Management

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A few months ago we announced Chrome Apps which bring the best of productivity, games and more to your desktop. Starting today, you can access these apps on any computer with Chrome, including Mac. Check them out in the “For your desktop” collection in the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome Apps work offline, update automatically and sync to any computer where you're signed into Chrome, so you can pick up where you left off. Your Chrome Apps on Mac behave and feel just like native software. For example, you can find your Chrome Apps in the Applications folder on the Dock. Search for apps by name in the Spotlight search—just like any other Mac program that you already use. 
To make it even faster to find and launch your favorite Chrome Apps, we’re also releasing the Chrome App Launcher for Mac. Just download a new Chrome App and you’ll see the Chrome App Launcher in your Dock.

We know many of you will be spending time with friends and family this holiday season, so here are a few Chrome Apps to check out:

WeVideo Next makes video editing easy for everyone and accessible from anywhere. You choose the editing mode that suits your level of experience and then trim, adjust, apply themes and publish. And it works offline, so you can get a head start polishing up your family videos on your flight home.
Smartsheet is a project management and collaboration app you can use at work and at home.  Try the dinner planner and holiday card tracker templates to stay organized.
Until AM is a full-fledged DJ setup in a lightweight app. Use the music from the cloud while online or keep the party going with your locally stored songs even when you're on an unstable internet connection. It’s perfect for hosting that big New Year’s party.
There are many more great Chrome Apps available in the Chrome Web Store. We hope you enjoy them.

Trent Apted and Jack Hou, Software Engineers & Mac devotees

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Just in time for the holidays, 10 new apps have been added to the Chromecast family. Beginning today you can enjoy action sports, news, music videos, and more with the addition of VEVO, Red Bull.TV, Songza, PostTV, Viki, Revision 3 and BeyondPod.

And for those many holiday gatherings, you can also cast your personal media straight to your TV using Plex, Avia, or RealPlayer Cloud apps. There’s no need to huddle around small screens when you can share your own photos and videos using your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Learn more about the supported apps and stay up to date on what's new at chromecast.com/apps. To start casting from these apps, make sure you have the latest versions for Android or iOS, or use Chrome to cast from your laptop. These apps will be rolling out over the next few days.

Happy casting!

Posted by
Jennifer Wasson, Chromecast Business Development Manager and Santa’s Head of Holiday Cheer

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As 90 percent of people move between multiple screens every day, many with touch capabilities, we’ve become accustomed to tapping, swiping and zooming to get things done. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the touchscreen on the Chromebook Pixel, and over the past year we’ve made optimizations to Chrome OS to make touch actions simple and intuitive — our customers find themselves reaching out to tap an OK button, scroll through a page or zoom into Google Maps.

As part of this immersive, tactile world, Acer has announced the new Acer C720P Chromebook with a multi-touch screen, adding the second touch-enabled Chromebook to the lineup. Acer’s Chromebooks are consistent best-sellers on Amazon, and this new device will help more users experience the best of the tactile web for just $299.


The Acer C720P is available for preorder now at Amazon, and the device will hit store shelves in the U.S. and additional countries from this week onwards.

Posted by Caesar Sengupta, VP, Product Management