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Google I/O preview: what Google has in store this year
You never know exactly what will make an appearance at Google’s annual I/O developer conference in San Francisco, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Google I/O 2015 kicks off on Thursday, 28th May, with a two-and-a-half hour keynote that promises to unveil an exciting array of updates and new hardware.
We’ve already taken a look at the program with what Android developers can expect at I/O, now it’s time to speculate about what might get tech fans cheering.
The next flavor of Android was mentioned in the Android for Work event schedule, though it was subsequently removed. We’re expecting security improvements, enterprise features, more voice controls, better notifications, and support to drive Android into cars, wearables, and the living room. You can take a closer look, as we ask what will Android M bring?
New hardware is always exciting, but we think the most likely device to make an appearance at I/O will be a Chromecast sequel. No one expected Google’s original to be such a success, but it’s almost two years old now. There’s no doubt it could be improved upon, especially since the competition has started to heat up with Amazon’s Fire Stick and Roku’s wares. We should see support for 802.11 AC and 5GHz Wi-Fi, and maybe 4K content.
If you’re in the market for a new TV, then you’re sure to have a wide array of Android models to choose from in the not too distant future. There will be no need for a Chromecast, if you opt for an Android TV, and we expect to see more demos and features to whet the appetite. Gaming on your big screen, using your smartphone as a controller, is something that Google will want to push. We may also see some creative second screen ideas. Android TV needs something to help it stand out from the crowd.
We have no doubt that there will be some news for drivers awaiting an in-car Android system. There should be some demos and partner announcements that will bring Android to your dashboard, and M is sure to have some auto-focused features. Will we see full-fat Android running in cars without the need for a smartphone? We’ll find out soon.
There’s also a chance that Google’s self-driving car will make an appearance as a nod to the future in this space.
The wearables market is growing ever more competitive. Google has been making progress with Android Wear, recently adding Wi-Fi support for some devices, but it’s still very far from a perfect platform. There’s an awful lot of room for improvements, some of which we might see at I/O. There’s also a chance that Google will try to bring the platform to iOS, though, it seems distinctly unlikely that Apple would allow it.
We may also see some new wearables on show. A number of traditional wrist watch brands are getting on board with Android Wear, and there’s always the chance that Google will make a Nexus smartwatch. Recent improvements to Google Fit could also pave the way for some new fitness wearables.
Google Glass 2
The big launch everyone expected for Glass never really came. Has Google learned enough from the experiment to unveil Google Glass 2? We’ve heard rumors about a redesign, maybe we’ll get a sneak preview of what’s in the works. Could Google move it into the rapidly expanding virtual reality headset space?
There are persistent rumors about Google offering a standalone photo service, that might be the Photos app stripped out of Google+ with some extras thrown in. Expect editing tools, support for all the major social media players, and a material design aesthetic. We’re not sure what that means for Google+ in the longer term, but it can’t be good.
The Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group is behind the modular phone with Ara, and 3D modeling of the environment with Tango, but there’s mention of “wearables that we hope will blow your socks off” in one session description. Could that be a new type of wearable altogether?
What we’ll see from them is probably the hardest thing to predict, but it should include an update on Ara. The pilot program is set to begin anytime now, though it’s going to be in Puerto Rico. Google obviously needs working hardware to start that, so it should be ready to show something off.
Smart home and IoT
Can Google drive Android into the home, or help unify the Internet of Things? We’ve been expecting more of a push into the smart home for quite some time now, and it seemed certain after the acquisition of Nest, but we’re still waiting. Given Google’s love of big data, it must be planning to capitalize on the IoT trend, maybe we’ll get a glimpse of how at I/O. There has been talk of a low power version of Android, code named Brillo, that could make its way into all sorts of devices.
No new Nexus?
We don’t think there will be a new Nexus smartphone or tablet until October at the earliest. The Nexus 6 and 9 landed last October, so another release at I/O would be a real surprise. It seems as though Android Silver, a program designed to set specific standards and requirements for Android devices, was shelved, but the fragmentation problem remains and there’s an outside chance that Google might still be pursuing some sort of hardware answer.
What else will we see?
Expect to see Material Design rolling out across more of Google’s platforms, possibly alongside the Polymer release. There will also be some mention of real-time satellite imaging through the Skybox acquisition, presumably for Google Earth, but we can expect some privacy concerns if that’s the case.
Is there anything else you’re expecting, or hoping, to see? Tell us in the comments. Naturally, there will be one or two surprises, and you’ll find full coverage of the event right here.