Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Google I/O Through the Looking Glass: Developers & Software Center Stage

Google I/O, the annual developer conference, begins 
Wednesday morning, so let’s gaze into the
digital ball and speculate. The conference last year was a high-water mark: product releases dominated the agenda with the release of the highly successful Nexus 7 tablet, Android "Jelly Bean," and Google Glass, which has been one most active technology stories of 2013.

Judging from the comments made by Google's Android head Sundar Pichai in an interview in Wired, this year’s conference will likely focus on developers and software. Notably, Google is not combining Android and Chrome…yet. Pichai has effectively taken over for Andy Rubin at Android. A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and Stanford, he is now a key member of Larry Page’s “L-team” of top executives. On the future of Android, Pichai states in the interview:

“The scale and scope is even bigger than what I had internalized. The momentum — in terms of new phones and new tablets — is breathtaking. I see huge opportunity, because it is just shocking how much of the world doesn’t have access to computing. In his book Eric [Schmidt] talks about the next 5 billion [the people on earth who aren’t connected to the internet who soon will be]. That’s genuinely true and it excites me. One of the great things about an open system like Android is it addresses all ends of the spectrum. Getting great low-cost computing devices at scale to the developing world is especially meaningful to me.”
Last year, we saw the release of serious hardware products, the focus this year might be on the development of the software on those products and platforms. Build and iterate. 

Seeing Through Glass
Glass will have a large presence at I/O. A glance at the I/O schedule shows a Day 2 devoted to several sessions on Glass development. Many thousands of developers have been building on and experimenting with the hardware. It is likely we will see the reveal of the first round of official applications for Glass. The skydiving, X-Sport infused reveal of Glass last year might give way to geek-end development and app development presentations.

Updating the Droid
Rumors on the net have pointed toward the release of version 5.0 "Key Lime Pie," yet it is more likely we will see updates to Jelly Bean Android 4.3.

Android Game Center
Conference rumors point toward the announcement of an official “Android Game Center” — a cloud based nexus for games where players can interact, post scores, compete in multiplayer gaming formats. This is a likely development that we have already seen with traditional gaming console systems. As the mobile game market matures, so will the infrastructure around it, which will hopefully help indie developers and end-users. The future will likely see this game center linked to the broader range of Google applications and platforms, tying into G+ and Chat. This platform could provide wider standardization of tools; unite the sandbox. Eventually, this will also tie-in with Google TV…the future is seamless cloud data running between TV, mobile, laptop...and then Glass and smartwatches. The mobile gaming market is estimated to generate over $9 billion globally in 2013. In an article in Business Wire, OBJE CEO Paul Watson stated, “The mobile gaming market’s annual growth is now at 32 percent, and the revenue this industry generated in the U.S. alone increased by 16 percent year-on-year in 2012. That makes mobile games one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet.” Android Game Center could be huge; a new hub with multiplayer support, in-game chat, lobbies, leaderboards, and achievements.

More hardware, a new phone? Not likely. Rumors have pointed toward updates to the Nexus 7 and possibly (unlikely) a Nexus 8, which might be positioned to compete directly with iPad mini. The Motorola X phone might make an appearance as an early teaser of things to come, yet from all reports, is still very much in development. Click here for a round-up of Nexus 7 possible upgrades. According to recent FCC filing paperwork, the Motorola “X” device includes the model number XT1058,  with 4G LTE, NFC capabilities, and GSM network operated on 1900/850 bands…all indicative of an AT&T device, which has been supported by earlier rumors.

Google Future Gazing
What I am most excited about is possible information coming out of Google X labs including machine learning, self-driving cars, and Google Fiber. Let’s hope some time is devoted to future tech.

All you do is talk talk. “Babble,” (the term pinging on the internet), might be debuted as a unifier of Google's chat services, providing a single communication tool across the wide range of Google platforms.

The Great Map Race
Remember the buzz around maps last year. Apple’s ill-fated entrance into maps and Google’s 3D mapping upgrades. We will likely see robust updates to map functions, improvements to map interfaces, and wider additions to indoor maps.

The last word to Pichai:

"It’s going to be different. It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system. Both on Android and Chrome, we’re going to focus this I/O on all of the kinds of things we’re doing for developers, so that they can write better things. We will show how Google services are doing amazing things on top of these two platforms."

Image Source: By Google (http://www.android.com/branding.html) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

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