If you missed the Google IO keynote, here are 5 of the big things to take away from what Google talked about and revealed at what was probably the most momentous occasion in Android history with all the key announcements.
1. Google is serious about unifying their products
Pretty much everything that was announced by Google was designed not just with Android, or Chrome, or Chromebooks, or TVs in mind, but was about how it all interacted with each other, and they’re about unifying interfaces across devices, no matter what they may be.
2. Android Wear is a big deal.
Wearables are the next big frontier for tech companies, and Google just jumped Apple by announcing a comprehensive platform for smartwatches, and announcing hardware that will be available soon. An Apple iWatch will be a key product regardless of what Google does, but unless Apple has a killer feature (and with Google Fit, even health could be lacking) or competes on price, they might be playing from behind Google.
3. Android TV could solve a lot of problems with TV interfaces
Yes, Google has tried with TVs before, but we live in an era of $99 hardware that can handle video and TV features, and having a standardized system for future boxes and microconsoles to use will go a long way toward getting Android on to TVs. And of course, it hooks into Google Play services.
4. Android One could solve the cheap phones issue
By launching a Nexus-esque initiative, and getting phones with Google Play, the necessary security updates, and the latest OS, Google is making sure that they can extend the reach of their services, even to developing markets. It’s a well-overdue move.
5. Android isn’t about the next version any more.
Yes, Android talked about the next “L” version, but they didn’t have a name – and that may have been on purpose. They talked about how things like security fixes are coming in through Google Play services. Android Wear wasn’t talked about as just for L devices.
Android’s still going to get major software versions, but Google’s been making moves toward divorcing key Android features from the Android version number – and there were more steps toward that today. Perhaps by de-emphasizing the Android version names nad numbers, this is another step in that direction.
Also expect some kind of “Android TV” to be announced, as Riptide GP2 got accidentally updated with new release notes indicating that it will support this “Android TV” with split-screen support for multiplayer. Whether this is a new device or just a new TV-output mode, we’ll see today during the keynote!
Google I/O may have had a few expected announcements: Jelly Bean, the Nexus tablet, and the Google Glasses becoming official, but one product is a particular surprise: the Nexus Q.
The Nexus Q seems like an interesting device, kn that it wasn’t exactly expected. It’s taking on the Apple TV and AirPlay in general by trying to exist as a streaming media hub. Android devices will be able to stream media to the Nexus Q, including music and video content. Google Music owners will be able to use the Nexus Q to stream their collection with just the device. Android tablets and phones can control the Nexus Q wirelessly. It also has speaker connections, so it could serve as a kind of wireless audio receiver to go along with its media streaming features.
The form factor is a curious decision: spherical, with a ring of blue LEDs that light up when it is on. Google is also boasting that this device is made entirely in the United States. All this will come at a steep price: $299. This may not have the mass-market appeal of the Apple TV, which has done well for Apple at its $99 price, though their use of common chip architecture across the iOS line is a boon to them. The Nexus Q ships starting in July.
The Google glasses, now officially called Google Glass, were also confirmed. They won’t be mass-market devices at launch, as they’ll retail for $1500, and will not ship until next year, at least for the Explorer Edition model. The future of the project is still not entirely clear, but Google spent plenty of time showing the interactive digital eyewear off in their Google I/O presentation. With the delayed launch, it does appear that there’s still a lot to be done to make the glasses ready for even developer consumption, but it could be a very interesting project down the road.
The worst-kept secret in Android is now out: the 7″ Nexus tablet is now a reality. It’s an Asus-produced 7-inch tablet with a 1280×800 IPS screen, Tegra 3 chip, 1 GB of RAM, an estimated 8 hours of battery life on a 4325 mAh battery, a front-facing camera, and will come pre-loaded with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Nexus 7 will come in 8 GB and 16 GB storage configurations for $199 and $249 respectively. It will not come in cellular models, at least not right away. Google will be selling the tablet through Google Play, starting in July.
Of course, with the rumor mill nailing pretty much everything that the Nexus 7 would have in terms of specs, this isn’t a surprise. It should be intriguing as a gaming device, though: Nvidia has done a lot of work in getting titles to be either exclusive to Tegra 3 chips, or launching with Tegra 3 enhancements. That an official, mass-market Google device will have the chip is a good thing for Nvidia and thosse who partnered with them, and should provide some compelling content for the tablet.
Google is hoping for this tablet to push Google Play in the way that the Kindle Fire has pushed Amazon services, and their massive library of apps, with the burgeoning music and video stores, should help them along. Interestingly, there isn’t much word if Google’s going to try to get this thing out at retail, or if they really want to try and drive people to Google Play. The Kindle Fire may be sold by Amazon, and it likely would still be somewhat successful if it sold through Amazon alone, but it also has a major retail presence. The Nexus 7 could be slow to take off if Google doesn’t sell it through retail stores, or people who are interested in it may not pick it up if they can’t get it at retail.
Of course, selling it at least exclusively through Google Play, at least initially, may help Google get more people acclimated to buying their devices directly from Google. The HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus just dropped to $349.99 on their store as well. It’s something of a brute-force tactic, but if they market this device properly, it could be a boon for them. If not, it could just be another well-kept secret in their arsenal, produced solely for their own amusement.
This is a major week for Google and the tablet space. The Google IO conference is this week, and there’s the rumors floating about that they’re going to finally unveil that Nexus Tablet that has been the worst-kept secret in the mobile space so far. They may just need it because of the Windows-based Surface tablet that Microsoft just announced.
Now, the Surface is not necessarily targeting Android tablets â€“ the market is just too small to sufficiently do that, and the iPad is currently king gorilla. In fact, Microsoft seems to want to attack the ultrabook market as well, with their Intel Surface tablets being priced in that pricepoint, with the ARM-based tablets taking on the iPad and Android equivalents.
In fact, Google may be more concerned that if they don’t control the 7-inch market, that they could wind up losing control of Android entirely. Offering an attractive solution with more power with more apps at the same price could be key for them, if the rumored Nexus Tablet actually does make its appearance.
What Google and Microsoft both seem to share right now is a common position of where the third-parties that support their software are their biggest hindrance. Apple has succeeded because they found mass-market hardware that they can sell with software that they can update without cost to the user, or a low cost. Windows updates are rather pricey; Apple just dropped the price of a major OS X update from $29.99 to $19.99. It may not be feasible for Microsoft to keep selling software, so getting into hardware may be their key to long-term success. After all, it’s how the Xbox is succeeding. They may need to make the shift into hardware production even if it means that they’ll be going up against the various corporations who sell hardware with their product!
Google knows all too well about this, and it’s a sticky place to be in, though Google isn’t making much money off of Android installations because the OS is free. But what the Nexus Tablet, if it’s a low-cost device, would do is serve as a salvo to the world that they are here to control Android. The Motorola move was part of this, and they’ve made Nexus phones, but the tablet market is such a hot spot that feels like it is in need of a true low-cost option that Google needs to make sure they’re a part of it, even if it puts them in an awkward relationship with those who sell hardware with their product!
Google’s I/O event has been home to plenty of notable events and announcements, such as Google’s beta testing of a cloud-based music service, but one that should hopefully benefit many Android users in the near future is a hopefully major improvement in the fragmentation issues that have so far plagued Android, by ensuring that new devices will be receiving the most recent version of Android for up to 18 months after they release.
Google is going to work with carriers and manufacturers to ensure that any new Android devices from participating manufacturers and carriers will receive the most recent version of Android for the device at launch, as well as for up to 18 months after the device is initially released. While the caveat of “participating manufacturers and carriers” sounds like there might be exceptions, but this is not the case at all – all 4 major carriers in the US (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) and popular Android manufacturers HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and LG, who manufacture a large majority of the phones on those carriers in the US will be part of the program.
While there are not any specific details on what this program will entail, it should help to ease fragmenatation issues, especially as it is possible right now to go out and buy a phone like the Samsung Captivate that is running Eclair, two versions behind the most recent version of Android, Gingerbread. With future phones being ensured that they will get the latest Android, fragmentation should hopefully reach levels closer to iOS than what has been seen on Android, where many different OS variants have been seen, and phones often lag behind. With this insurance to keep phones modern, this should help out with fragmentation of devices for developers, and with consumers who can now stay current on their Android experience.
How many of you managed to score Google I/O tickets in the 59 minutes registration was open? Given the events record sell-out time, I’m guessing not too many. For everyone who missed out, stop pawning your valuables and hoping to win one of those $2,000 dollar Ebay bids and start marking your calenders for Wednesday, March 16th. That is the starting date for Google’s “we love developers” Last Call for Google I/O contest.