Google I/O, the company's mammoth annual developer hoopla, goes down this week. Here's what you can expect to hear from Google during Wednesday's three-hour keynote extravaganza.
While last year's I/O was a parade of Nexus devices, Chrome/Android chief Sundar Pichai told Wired that this year's conference will focus more on what the Chrome and Android ecosystems are good for than on introducing radical new products.
Given that this year's chatter has been pretty light (so far) it's possible we won't get any new blockbusters on that scale; at most, we might see a zippier Nexus 7 (more on that later). Still, downplay as Pichai might, it's hard to imagine Google spending three hours with the tech world's rapt attention and not introducing something shiny to play with.
When Google put the head of Chrome in charge of Android as well, it seemed apparent that the company was planning to merge the two operating systems at some point down the road. We're not there yet, though. In the aforementioned Wired interview, Pichai basically evaded the question, saying it's not going to happen—or at least not yet.
What you can expect to see, though, is the platforms starting to inch towards a more integrated ecosystem. Indeed, Google's competitors are on their way already: Microsoft effectively created a combination desktop and mobile OS with Windows 8. Similarly, Apple appears to be moving in that direction with the latest releases of OS X and iOS.
The star of this year's I/O will unquestionably be improvements to Android, although that could be everything from an incremental update to a version overhaul. Some say it will be called version 4.3 while others say it will be called version 5.0. The former would be a new iteration of last year's Jelly Bean, while the latter would be a jump ahead to the next letter in the Android alphabet: Key Lime Pie.
It would break with tradition if Google didn't give us a totally new version I/O, but given that we haven't heard too much about a full renovation, a Jelly Bean bump and a Key Lime Pie both seem likely. If I had to bet, my money's on a bump to 4.3.
You know what people like to do on their phones? Temple Run! Angry Birds! Well, after nabbing a new Chief Game Designer for Google Play, all signs seem to indicate that Google is about to launch its own Game Centre-like focal point for gaming apps. Makes sense!
The evidence? Android Police dove into the code on Google Play Services v3.1.36 that's supposedly rolling out to phones, and discovered that this latest version contains a new "Play Games" with architecture for matchmaking and achievements, much like its iOS counterpart. All of the phones we have on hand are still running v3.0.27 so we can't confirm this for sure, but the evidence looks solid.
Rumours about a unified hub for all of Google's various chat services have been circulating for a while now, with some saying that the originally reported "Babel" code name will be ditched for the Hangouts name Google has been using for its group video chat since the launch of Google+ in 2011. Either way, expect to see a major unified chat experience—which if executed properly could end up being the most important announcement of all.
If the mounting rumours over the last few months are true, Google has been plotting some kind of music subscription service along the lines of Spotify or Pandora. This service would be an addition to Google Music storage locker and store that has been around since late 2011. The service seems like an obvious move, and if Google has the rights locked up, there's no reason not to launch it at I/O.
The service could come in a couple of different flavours. Some suggest that the subscription will come as either part of Google Music or YouTube. The former would make sense because, uh, Google Music already exists. Meanwhile, YouTube just launched subscription channels, and at least one report seems to think that the music subscription could be YouTube branded.
Does Google even have a project that's more devy than Google Glass right now? Last year at I/O Google tossed a bunch of people wearing glass out an airplane and showed off their X-Games potential. The company also announced Glass Explorers program, which is just now starting to bear fruit. We'll definitely be seeing some announcements and news on this front—we're just not entirely sure what's coming.
At last year's I/O, Google introduced the Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet, which remains to this date the best Android tablet you can buy. It would make sense for Google to introduce a follow-up this year, right? Well, at least one analyst thinks so, and has been hyping an Asus follow-up to the Nexus 7, which he says will be powered by a burly Snapdragon 800 processor and will come all dressed up with a glorious 1080p display.
Sounds so exciting that it could be too good to be true so we'll file this one under wait-and-see. Analyst reports tend not to mean much more than "analyst pipe dream."
Over the last few years, Google TV has evolved from a joke into a half-decent platform. Unfortunately, hardware manufacturers have failed to implement it as either a set-top-box or a native OS inside a TV. Or at least, have failed to implement it well. At this point, Google needs to deliver some hardware of its own, or provide some promising features that will tempt OEMs to take another flier on its TV product.
Last year, Google took its first crack at creating a media streamer of its own, and the resulting Nexus Q was such a disaster in its very conception that Google yanked it before it even finished shipping pre-orders. Google maintains it wants to ship the product, but All Things D says we won't hear about the ill-fated orb this week.
The Nexus 4 is so wonderful in large measure because it runs that hot hot stock Android amazingness. But there are downsides to the hardware. For example, it doesn't have LTE and the camera and battery are terrible. That, plus the fact that Nexus 4 devices have been yanked from sale, lend credence to the idea of a Nexus 4G, which would have a working LTE radio.
Google-owned Motorola has been working on an X device, as well, but there's no indication that it will launch at I/O. Given how much Google has kept Moto at arm's length on the hardware side since the acquisition, it seems reasonable to expect that it'll keep for another day.
Fortunately the Galaxy S IV and HTC One have proven that there's plenty of Android hardware innovation to be had outside of Google itself.
Anything we missed? Anything you especially want/don't want to see? Let us know in the discussion below.