After the big yearly events hosted by Microsoft and Apple came the Google Developer Conference, accompanied by a great deal of expectation. Luckily, this was met, and perhaps even surpassed. The San Francisco I/O saw a slew of products announced. Some inevitable, like Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and the Google Nexus 7, and some with a little more ambition. The unveiling of Google Glasses (which some envisaged as too leftfield for the conference) and the Media Streaming Nexus Q, possibly a future rival to the Sonos system, created a real buzz. But surely no one thought that an event which sold out in 20 minutes would be a failure.
Predictable: Android 4.1, Google Nexus 7 and Chrome
The latest incarnation of Google’s Smartphone and tablet OS offers a new predictive keyboard as well as offline voice typing. There is also an updated notification system and a redesigned camera app. While the SDK is available now at developer.android.com, Jelly Bean won’t be released to the open source community until mid July.
The headline device running this new software is the hotly anticipated Tegra 3 quad core CPU tablet, the Google Nexus 7. Priced at $199 with a $25 Play store coupon thrown in gratis, there’s a real chance it could overtake the hugely popular Amazon Kindle Fire. And, posited as a ‘serious gaming device’, those who hoped for a gaming focus at I/O 2012 certainly won’t be disappointed.
Google also highlighted the success of its Chrome browser. The VP of Chrome and Apps showed off a startling increase of 150 million from 2011 to the current 310 million active users, making it the most used browser in the world.
No surprise, then, that a universal app for iOS 4.3 and above is downloadable on the app store right now. What’s more? The announcement of the Series 5 Chrome book’s and Series 3 Chrome box’s availability across the U.S. could lead to an even faster rate of uptake.
All-New: Google Now, Glasses and Nexus Q
The speculation around a Siri-like Google assistant service has been intense. As Apple’s offering is a rival search engine, it makes sense that Google Now was revealed at this year’s O/S. Aside from its obvious role as a do-it-all task driver, Google Now promises to learn from the user by leaning on Google’s Knowledge Graph and, in doing so, should enable users to access pertinent info faster.
Google is obviously taking the Siri threat seriously; after the 2010 acquisition of Phonetic Arts, it hopes to provide a real contender in the field of voice control, perhaps shunning current services of partner companies, like Samsung’s S Voice, in the process.
Not many thought a demo of Google Glasses was likely at the 2012 conference. But Google managed to surprise us. As if the mention of augmented reality video-capture glasses were not enough, the company decided to let a Google employee, logged into a Google+ hangout and wearing the futuristic eyewear, dive out of a plane. And yes, it was live; incredibly, this guy managed to capture the extreme sport without any problems. Google claim that the device will be “lighter than sunglasses” and an explorer edition will be available to certain I/O attendees for the hefty sum of $1500, with a consumer product planned for no earlier than 2014.
Music was also on the agenda, but perhaps not to the extent some had expected. While not a single speaker unit such as the Sonos S5, the Nexus Q does operate in conjunction with Android devices as a media content streamer, providing what is effectively a multi-purpose version of Apple’s Airplay.
There’s optical digital audio and an HDMI output, all driven by the same OMAP 6640 processor as in a Galaxy Nexus. In addition to the wide range of connectivity options–NFC, Bluetooth, WI-Fi, Ethernet and micro-USB–the device will seamlessly stream all sorts of content from the Google Play cloud, with integrated social features. However, at $299, it doesn’t offer the same competitive pricing as found on the Nexus 7. In fact, this price point places it right on par with Sonos’ smallest all-in-one offering, the S3, which is more of a premium and arguably useful product if you only want to stream music and not video.
A Runaway Success
The number and variety of announcements in the 2012 Google Developer Conference made it a sure-fire hit. Google responded to every expectation with a product and, for that, they cannot be faulted. Their brilliant reluctance to hold back information about new ventures, like Google Glasses, serves only to deepen our excitement.