Monday, May 25, 2015

6 things to expect from Google I/O 2015

Android is coming to every screen

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The ecosystem wars will resume this week during Google IO. Microsoft has already dished out quite a lot of new development updates towards Windows 10 and Apple is bound to show off new software during WWDC early next month. But before that happens, Google's annual developers conference will be taking place in San Francisco this Thursday and this year it's going to be big given that the competition is as strong as it gets.
" Moscone Center is where Microsoft, Google and Apple hold their developers conference
We're expecting a lot from Google this year, they've been subtly quiet for the past few months but numerous reports have been stating they'll be reiterating lots of new services during this year's conference. There is still a lot of unanswered question about the future of various Google products like will consumers be able to buy Google Glass this year or is Google going to make a Nexus branded Android Wear smartwatch? All will be answered during the 2.5 hour keynote on Thursday morning.

Android

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Let's start off with Android, without doubt, Google will definitely be spending quite some time showing off the current and future developments for their mobile operating system. Like Apple, it seems that Google is getting comfortable in releasing a new version of Android every year during their developers conference. This year, we'll be migrating our focus to the letter 'M', It's possible that Google will be referencing this new version of Android as Android M when they announce it later this week.
" Android L turned out to be Lollipop, what will M stand for
With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google enhanced and redesigned Android at it's core by introducing Material design. Although not all apps have adapted to this new design language, the vision of a unified design term for Android is still there and with the upcoming Android M, Material design would most likely tweak towards optimizing the animation speeds and refining the design spec to suit the apparent changes in Android M

From the ongoing reports and the recent leaks related to Android M, Google plans to reform Android into a platform which adapts to various types of workplaces. This doesn't seem much but it could be the core theme for Android M. Android itself has been long related to powering smartphones and tablets and Google might be on to changing that.

What I'm referring to is that Android M might just bridge the gap between working with your smartphone or tablet either in the workplace or at home. The new version of Android might introduce a more secure protocol which sways away from the said Android security exploits. At home, Android M might be equipped with services/apps which enable your android device to natively control smart home appliances.
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From a general point of view, I think that Google should focus on refining Android Lollipop to induce better performance across the board as well as improving battery life. We might be swayed away by all the headline features but we should hear some improvements done on the overlay of the software.

Beyond the Android powering smartphone and tablets, we still have Android Wear which is slowly becoming an integral extension of Android. First introduced last year during Google IO, Google's smartwatch platform hasn't changed much since it's inception. The main idea behind Android Wear is still notifications and Google Now as the solution for navigating through apps.

At this point in time, there's not much speculation on the direction Google is heading for with Android Wear but with the new Android M software, the platform should see a new sense of direction. Maybe Google's going to unveil a new way of interacting Android Wear through Google Now commands.

It's also worth mentioning that Google plans to expand the reach of Android to other device types. They might not be merging Chrome OS into Android but the popular mobile platform will be seen running on Televisions, car dashboards, wearables and also microcontroller boards. It's clear that Android will soon be available in every screen you can see.

Wearables

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The Apple Watch is already out and it's very much the most popular wearable device at the moment. I can just blindly confirm that Google is definitely working on something to take on the Apple Watch. Yes, a new version of Android Wear is bound for Google IO and I'm expecting to see some refinements to the navigation as well as the UI.

Google has to make it's smart watch platform more compelling, Android might be reaping it's success on open source software but Android Wear is still nothing compared to Android itself. Big Android manufacturers like Samsung and LG seems to be unimpressed with what they can do with Android Wear and they've been partially focusing on their own Wearable platform; Namely Tizen and WebOS.

With that said, Android Wear needs to be clearly defined as the wearable market will be expanding it's reach in the coming months ahead. Google needs to make the software compelling because the average consumer won't just dish out $200 - $300 to buy a smartwatch which just makes the wearer look cool by answering call on a watch. More customization options should be available on both the software and hardware.
Do we need a Nexus smartwatch?
That said, recent findings have concluded that Android Wear will soon be compatible with the iPhone and if that happens it'll most likely be announced during the keynote. This is a big deal as Apple users will enjoy the hardware options which Android wear has to offer. But don't hold your breath for any Apple Watch support for Android, it's not going to happen.
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Another thing that might be announced is some new hardware concepts for wearable devices. There is ongoing reports that the division behind Project Ara is working on modulizing the smartwatch. Like Project Ara itself, that sounds futuristically cool but wouldn't it be nicer if Google unveiled something as compelling as Microsoft's HoloLens

We all know that Google is always on to creating out-of-this-world ideas for everyday products and Project Ara is one of them. Earlier this year, Google started a pilot program in Puerto Rico to try to see the market response towards the modular smartphone. But, since then not much news other than companies committed to making components for the platform. There's a lot of potential for this category of devices and if Google manages to pull it off, it's definitely going to be a big hit.

Besides hearing plans that Google will start driving around autonomous vehicles to roam Mountain View later this Summer, news about Google Glass have apparently been dropped. Despite having confirmation earlier this year that Google Glass still exists and the company is very well still interested in releasing it to the general public, there is not much speculation about the consumer focused version of this magical glasses other than it might be powered by intel. There is a slight chance that Google will be announcing some sort of release date for it but don't count on it.

Chrome, Not Google Chrome

Chrome as a platform, we're all quite familiar with Google Chrome, the browser of choice for many. Chrome OS was derived from Google Chrome and the desktop operating system actually functions pretty much like a web browser with apps from the Chrome Store and the browser itself. For years, Google has been betting big on it by introducing new features and beautiful hardware like the Chromebook Pixel.

But still, the market seems too saturated with the mainstream Macs and PCs which arguably can do more justice in terms of productivity. However that might change as there's a possibility that Google might be flipping on the switch to enable Chromebook users to download android app on to their Chromebook. If this happens then it'll be big.

As a platform, Chrome is as big as it gets and there's not much possibility that Google will merge Chrome OS with Android and just call it Android. It's not going to happen but running android apps on a Chromebook will definitely create the incentive of buying a Chromebook opposed to an Android powered tablet.

Virtual Reality

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Last year during IO, Google surprisingly unveiled Cardboard, which is a Virtual Reality headset powered by your smartphone. The simple cardboard construction gives us a sense how affordable and portable virtual reality can be. At Google IO this year, we might be in for a second revision of this VR headset and I'm not talking about reinforced cardboard, but an actual product.

Microsoft's HoloLens is already making things very compelling and Google is sure to have something up their sleeves given that they're able to make a cheap VR headset out of cardboard. They're more than capable of building a full blown VR headset. But at its core, the star of this Virtual Reality device is not the hardware but the software.

It's apparent that Android M will be powering this hybrid platform if Google does choose to announce it during the keynote later this week. Also, Google might be merging Virtual Reality into Google Glass and thus making the funky headgear more functionality. Well, of course Google Glass is meant to be a display which blends in with your daily life so, it could be holograms then.

Internet of Things (Home Automation)

Besides wearables, home automation is also another rising marketplace. Apple already has HomeKit but Google just has the smart thermostat company, Nest. Things are about to change as Android is about to come into the scene with a platform which connects through all the android devices running Android M. Likewise, this home automation platform will be able to plug in to existing smart appliances.
" The vision is to work seamlessly
But the beauty of this alleged extension might just be Android, this platform will likely be centralized to a single panel in your home and from there other Android devices running Android M will be capable of controlling the entire environment. With the native support from Android devices and several Google acquired home automation products, the experience will be seamless throughout.
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Speaking of platform, this home automation platform will be part of Google's new IoT (Internet of Things) platform which is supposedly under Android. It is reportedly called Brillo and will be powering low-powered devices like microcontroller boards or your home automation system. With this new IoT platform, Google is working towards unifying the Android ecosystem and besides being a centralized area for smart appliances, it could also be the centralized platform for all Android powered devices to be connected.

Services

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Vic Gundotra, the creator of Google+ left the company last year and since then the fate of Google's social networking site was at a halt. Initially, there was speculation that Google will eventually retire the site but that never went through. Instead, the current plan is that Google will be spinning of Google+ into three individual entities; Photos, streams and hangouts.

Hangouts as itself is already a platform with separate apps available for both Android and iOS but Photos in the other hand is still very much attached to Google Plus. That however is about to change, it is reported that Google is ready to unveil a new photo managing site. Unnamed, the new service will act a lot like how Google+ photos works and users will be able to upload and store photos onto the service which presumably links to Google Drive.
" Picasa and Google+ photos will merge
Then the fun bit is that those can be edited straight from the service and users will then be able to share it directly to Google+ and also other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Editing and storing features on a Google platform sounds familiar right? Indeed it is, Picasa is that very service but not much people use it because Flickr was arguably better at sharing photos.

Conclusion

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Overall, this should be most of what Google plans to unveil during their annual developers conference this year. Expect to see some of the backend stuff like programming alongside these announcements as it is a developers conference. I can't affirm that all the things listed here will be made use of but also this list is just part of the entire picture.

As for hardware, you might be asking why didn't I cover it? The simple answer is that there's not much speculation on that. A new nexus smartphone and tablet will most likely come when Android M officially launches in the fall and maybe we might hear a few things about Google Glass and Project Ara but it won't be available immediately.

The keynote for Google IO 2015 will be happening this Thursday (May 28) from 9:30AM onwards. You can catch the stream live on Youtube and click here to check out the times for your region. I'll post up a recap article next week.