Google’s annual I/O conference is due to kick off at 09:00 tomorrow in San Francisco. If you want to know when that is in your respective time zone, I’ve set this website up to make your life easier. Unlike previous I/O events, where there were multiple keynotes spread out over a couple of days, this year there will be just one keynote, and according to Google it’s supposed to be three hours long.
But enough about the logistics, let’s get to the actual announcements, which I’m going to split into three categories: Hardware, Software, and Services.
There are rumors out there that say Google is going to announce a new 32 GB Nexus 4 that’s compatible with America’s major (AT&T, Verizon) 4G LTE networks. This doesn’t sound too crazy to me, so I’m not going to dismiss it. However, I will dismiss the rumors that say we’re going to see a new Nexus at this event. That’s just not going to happen. Nexus phones typically get announced during late Q4 or early Q1, and I don’t see that changing this year.
The most likely hardware announcement will be refreshed Nexus 7. The old one, made by ASUS, had a horrible screen and a slow NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip inside, but at $199 it was hard to complain. The rumors say ASUS will again be responsible for this new Nexus 7, and that it’ll keep the same $199 price tag, but the screen resolution will get bumped up to 1920 x 1200 pixels. The processor will also get a kick in the pants courtesy of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. I can’t tell you which Snapdragon for sure, because there’s conflicting information.
Some people think we’re going to see an 11 inch Nexus tablet at I/O, but I don’t buy that for one second. The Nexus 10 that’s out now has been on the market since November 2012, so it’s still fresh. Some people also say we’ll see a new Chrombook, and that’s something I don’t want to immediately dump on, but at the same time I’m highly skeptical.
The Chromebook Pixel, that new fancy one that looks like a MacBook Pro, is less than three months old. The number one complaint about it is the price. The only way I can see Google making it cheaper would be to sacrifice that ultra high resolution display, stick it in a plastic body, and give it an older, slower chip. Add all that up and you’d get a pretty mediocre device, so what’s the point?
And finally, there’s what I like to call the “WOW” product. At I/O 2012, that was Glass. It would be presumptuous of me to assume that Google will launch a product that will illicit the same reaction this year, so I’m not going to, but you’ll probably hear lots of people talking about a Google Watch.
Motorola, which Google officially acquired a year ago, already built a fantastic Android based watch called the MOTOACTV. Unfortunately, the reviews panned it. Will a sequel be announced at I/O?
That’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on.
At I/O 2012, Google unveiled Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The features of the new release mainly centered around Google+ and the Play Store. We’re likely going to see Android 4.3 Jelly Bean this year, and for some strange reason that has a ton of people upset.
Does anyone remember how radically Android changed between versions 2.2 (FroYo) and 2.3 (Gingerbread)? I’m not saying we should expect huge changes at I/O this year, I’m just saying you shouldn’t be bummed about the fact that some sites are seeing Android 4.3 show up in their server logs instead of Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.
One thing that’s been leaked is “Google Play Games“, which can best be thought of as Google’s clone of Microsoft’s XBOX Live. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, games today are way more social than they used to be. If you rack up a high score, you want to share it with the world. If you’re playing a game with someone far away, you want to chat with them.
I’m still not sold on the idea of Google taking gaming seriously, because Android is so fundamentally fragmented. Forget about TouchWiz versus Sense, think about the developers who have to make sure their game works as well on the two year old Galaxy S II as it does on today’s Galaxy S4. I’m not even going to begin to pretend that I understand their pain.
Sundar Pichai was recently interviewed by Wired, and he said I/O 2013 will be mainly focused on developers, so I’m expecting to see a ton of new under the hood features get announced that makes it easier for app makers to create prettier and leaner applications. Pichai also made it abundantly clear that Chrome OS and Android will remain separate for the foreseeable future, so don’t expect to see Android apps being able to run on Chromebooks or in Chrome the web browser.
We haven’t heard about Google’s cloud services in a while. For those who don’t know what Google’s Compute Engine does, it lets developers build services without the need to invest in infrastructure. The leader of this industry is undeniably Amazon, and I bet that angers Google greatly. Expect them to make an announcement in this area.
Several images of the new version of Google Maps for the desktop have leaked, and they look a lot like Google Maps for iOS. I’m expecting Google to make the new Google Maps official at I/O, along with a new version of the Android app that unifies the design language across multiple platforms.
The biggest rumor, by far, is Google’s consolidation of all their chat services. Right now you can talk to people using Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Hangouts, Google Voice, and I’m sure I must be forgetting yet another Google service. We’ve all been assuming this new service will be called “Babel”, but recent rumors suggest that the final name has been changed to “Hangouts”. All I know is that iMessage works beautifully on iOS, so I’m hoping Google has a response to that.
How do you stay on top of the news?
I want to say you should read Android Beat, but the time zone differences aren’t in my favor. I’ll of course try to stay up tomorrow night, but I’m not going to make any promises. Luckily, Google will stream their keynote. I imagine it’ll be on the I/O 2013 homepage. I’m also not going to pretend that I’m the only tech site on the internet. You’ll probably not have any difficulties finding the news on bigger sites since they’ll each have a handful of writers at the event itself.
And with that, I hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup. There will undoubtedly be another one as soon as all the announcements have been made, and I’ll share my thoughts as how said announcements will impact the mobile industry.