This Thursday (Australian time) is one of Google’s biggest days of the year: Google I/O! And along with fancy developer seminars with enticing names like “open-source technologies from the Hadoop ecosystem as part of your Cloud toolkit”, we’re also going to get some Fun Announcements. Here’s what we’re expecting, what we’re hoping for, and what’ll have to wait.
Android Wear smartwatches: Google’s Android Wear project is not only officially announced, but it also has twopartners already on board in Motorola and LG. We’ve even seen one of them in action. It seems pretty inevitable that one, if not both, will make their first real appearance at Google I/O, maybe even alongside a first-party Nexus-type smartwatch. Google does own a smartwatch company after all.
Google Fit: And what good is a smartwatch if it doesn’t do fitness stuff? Yes, we’ve heard rumours about Google Fit before, but it also just makes sense that Google would be working on fitness platform since both Apple and Samsung already are. It almost certainly wouldn’t be limited to watches and fitness bands though; Google’s already built a step-counter-type-thing into Google Now, and Google Fit will just be a framework for developers to grab onto that functionality and go nuts.
YouTube Music: Last year we got Google Play Music, which was OK but doesn’t seem to have gained much traction. This year, you can expect the YouTube music service that finally, officially turns listening-to-music-on-YouTube into the Spotify competitor it already is. Maybe. While rumours of rights squabbling offer evidence that the a YouTube music service is actually close, squeezing out the indies could really shoot YouTube Music (and YouTube in general) in the foot. So there might be another delay in store of if Google decides to play it smart and keep massaging its deals.
Glass for Consumers: Google Glass has been around for what feels like forever, but it still hasn’t gotten its consumer release. This year’s Google I/O might finally be the time. In the past couple of months, Google has reaaaaally eased up on its restrictions of who can by Glass — garbage) more than ever.ible
Google Glass has been flailing around in the kiddie pool for long enough; it’s sink or swim time. The biggest question here? How much they will cost once Google moves past the $US1500 beta.
Android Silver and the death of the Nexus: Rumours have been flying that Google’s getting ready to finally put “Nexus” to bed, though more in name than in spirit. Rumoured successor “Android Silver” is said to uphold the same values of the Nexus line — promoting hardware running as close to stock Android as possible — but without necessarily anointing a single Chosen One. What this would mean for subsidies on unlocked hardware and the future of Google Play Edition devices is totally up for grabs. But be ready for a shake-up that results in more pure Google goodness on more quality hardware.
Assorted Android Improvements: Kit Kat 4.4 only showed up in October of last year, so it’s a bit early to expect a whooooole new version of Android, but we’re definitely due for some improvements in the form of a non-named release, or at the very least some big app updates. So far we’ve heard about things like Google Nearby, which could help stalk or be stalked by your friends, and plans to bring Moto X-esque always-listening functionality to all Android phones, somehow. Hopefully we’ll see both of those, along with some other surprises.
Android TV: You know the saying. “If at first you don’t succeed try again and again and again and again and again.” Android TV is roughly Google’s billionth stab at the television (alongside the still very existent, cheap, and pretty damn good Chromecast) and there’s a very good chance it will appear at I/O. Not only have there been leaks, but it actually made a stealth appearance at CES this year. Is the Nexus Q coming back? Hahahahaha no. Is its successor getting ready backstage? There’s a good chance.
Project Ara: Remember Phonebloks, a.k.a. Google’s Project Ara? It took the internet by storm when it was announced, only to disappear just as quickly. Well the Phonebloks team has been working hard inside the Google skunkworks and the dream of a modular phone is starting to take shape. Whether or not we see it at I/O is another matter. It’s possible.
A way better version of Hangouts and the death of Google Voice: Google Voice can and should die. From its ashes will rise a better Hangouts, the Hangouts we deserve. Will it happen this I/O? It’s a solid “maybe.” A Voice-Hangouts merger has been on the docket every since Hangouts was born, and now Apple is offering improvements to its iMessage in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite that make Hangouts look like a real joke. Maybe this is the year Google’s messaging finally gets the overhaul.
A new tablet: It’s been over a year since Google release the re-designed Nexus 7, and it’s been two years since the Nexus 10. There haven’t been any leaks to suggest a new tablet is on the way, but it feels like it’s about time for one if there’s ever going to be one again. Not to mention that if the Android Silver program rumours are true, what better way to usher it in than with a (fleet of?) tablets with a Google seal of approval?
More Project Tango tech: Google’s been bandying around its new, room-mapping Project Tango tech, first in a phone and more recently in a tablet. It’s probably too early for any kind of consumer release but who knows, maybe we’ll see the Project Tango equivalent of a Glass Explorers program.
[email protected] becoming a real boy: [email protected], Google’s big home automation push, has been floating around for ages now, but it’s yet to manifest in any way that affects regular folks. Now with Nest under its belt, and Apple nipping at its heels with HomeKit, it’s time for Google to put things in high gear and get the future to show up already.
A Chromecast update: We loved the Chromecast when it came out. Still do! But it hasn’t done much of anything lately except slowly get a little more functionality app by app by app by app. While it could just be another project that Google forgets about and moves on from, Cast-to-Screen buttons have been showing up on Android phones for a while now, and maybe I/O is the place to take that and the beta streaming-from-a-Chrome-tab feature, and use them to propel the Chromecast to actual greatness.
What’s a longshot
A self-driving car update: It wasn’t too long ago that we got a peek at the new, steering-wheel-less version of Google’s self-driving cars, and while I/O will be a great place to talk about them some more, we probably won’t get any big news. After all, Google’s hands are pretty much tied by regulators at this point.
Skynet and its robot army: Yes, Google still has its robot army, but it’s probably not too keen on opening its mouth about them in favour of just talking about phones and operating systems and other fun toys. Ditto any plans for world domination.
A Nexus 6: So maybe there could be a Nexus 6 at I/O, considering that’s where Nexii are often announced, but the lack of any rumours about a new Nexus plus the rumours that the Nexus line is about to be put out to pasture make it seem pretty unlikely.
A Google+ transformation: With Google+ head Vic Gundotra leaving Google, the ever-present social monster that is/was Google+ has reportedly been left effectively dead. There’s a chance that Google could take this opportunity to change course, turning Google+ into something more of a hub for your services instead of a social play, like it should have been from the start. But it’s more likely that it will just stay quietly in the shadows.