For the fifth year in a row, Google’s developer-centric I/O conference has confirmed rumors and highlighted new features for its product line. As expected, this year’s focus was largely on the Android platform—Google’s wildly popular mobile operating system—with light shed on several other facets of the conglomerate’s business as well.
Android Gets Some Tasty Tweaks
Though only a small portion of current Android users are using the platform’s most recent upgrade, Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0, Google is already steamrolling ahead to the next iteration of its mobile OS, Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean. Amongst other adjustments, Jelly Bean will automatically resize widgets when placed onto a device’s homescreen so the user doesn’t have to manually move and adjust his layout when customizing his device. Notifications and alerts will likewise require less effort to view and deal with, dynamically expanding and shrinking as they come in. Thanks to another food-themed initiative, Project Butter, Android devices can now race along at a speedy 60 frames per second, allowing for seamless transitions from screen to screen and less overall lag for the platform.
Among the first devices to receive the upgrade, the Samsung Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, and Motorola Xoom will be receiving a patch this month. Google has also officially announced its partnership with ASUS to release the Nexus 7: a light, powerful, Jelly Bean enabled tablet which packs a strong punch for an astonishing price of only $200. The device’s processing power and picture quality are uncharacteristically high for the price bracket it falls under, though it does seem to have sacrificed a rear-camera and no small bit of internal storage to meet this low cost.
In keeping with efforts to expand its product line, Google will be releasing its first entirely self-made physical product this month as well. The Nexus Q, a streaming media player featuring a 25 watt amplifier for speakers and the ability to pull from various services including Google Play and Youtube, aims to add a new social aspect to how we view and listen to our media. This small, Android-powered sphere will be controllable by any other Android phone or tablet, which means that if you put one in your home your friends can play any songs or movies they might have stored on their phones or saved in one of Google’s various cloud services straight from their devices. Not having to pass around a remote or tether everyone to a single media player might prove a convenient way to keep a party going, but the device has one other uncommon feature behind it- the Nexus Q is actually manufactured in the USA. Homegrown electronic devices are a rarity here, meaning Google has taken quite the festively patriotic gamble on the Q.
Supplementing its growing foray into media, Google is adding more support for movie and TV show (both single episodes and full season) purchases in its Play Store, and will be introducing subscription services for TV programs. A number of magazines are also now ready to be bought in the store’s latest venue.
Web Browsing and Storage
Unsurprisingly, the I/O keynote presentations saw Google give itself more than a few pats on the back, pointing out that Google Play now has 600,000 apps available, resulting in 20 billion installs across all Android devices (there are about 400,000 million active ones now, by the way, which the host gladly bragged of). Sprinkled in with the boastful statistics, however, were some other novel developments. Google Chrome, the company’s Internet browser, has nearly doubled its userbase from last year to 310 million, and it now looks to capture even more of the market with a campaign onto its competitor’s iPad and iPhone.
Its new cloud service, Google Drive, will also be landing on Apple shores with support for iOS, making documents accessible through yet another avenue. Google Documents themselves will, at long last, be editable offline- a beneficial selling point to the company’s new line of Chromebook laptops, which are going on display in 100 Best Buy stores (Long Islanders can currently take a look at these products at the retail giant’s Westbury location).
A few more details were also announced concerning Google’s much bandied about augmented reality eyewear. After a showy demo demonstrating the project’s recording and sharing capabilities, claims of a powerful CPU and high volumes of memory were made to tease viewers just a bit further. If all goes according to plan, though, it seems the world might see through Google’s Glasses some time in 2014.
Looking for a new smart device or using Google products already? Tell us about it on the Long Island Lounge or leave your comments below.