Google I/O 2013 is taking place next Wednesday in San Francisco. This developer-focused conference is where Google features highly advanced session about topics such as Android, YouTube, Chrome, and other Google services. The ‘I’ and ‘O’ stand for input/output and ‘Innovation in the Open’.
The conference has been going strong since 2008, enough that all $900 tickets to the 2013 event sold out in 49 minutes. This is because I/O isn’t just for developer workshops, but where Google announces many of their future plans to the international press. Google remains quiet about what exactly will be presented, so there are plenty of rumors. We definitely have our ideas about what Google will announce, such as updates to Android OS, Google Now, Google Babel, and much more.
We’ll look at the likely (and a few wishful) announcements that Google could show off over the next week:
An update to Google Maps is one of the few subjects almost confirmed for the I/O conference. Google Operating System leaked images of the app’s changes. The new version removes the sidebar, replacing with pop-ups showing necessary info. The redesign appears to have better use of space, better integration with other Google services, and new fonts and icons. Further details are sparse, which makes it a likely topic during the I/O keynote.
Google Now released on iOS at the end of April, making it likely that Google is breathing new life into the app across different platforms. Support with Google services such as Calendar, Gmail, and Drive make it a powerful package. It’s notable that the iOS version is lacking a few Android features such as Boarding Pass and Nearby Events. It is possible Google will beef up Google Now and make it a rival to Apple’s Siri.
Another direction is also Google Now on Chrome, allowing its full suite of features on home computers. Francois Beaufort poked around the latest alpha version of Chrome and found a means of accessing a in-progress version of Google Now. You can try it out yourself by opening the developer alpha Chrome, entering the address ‘chrome://flags’, and hitting ‘Enable’. As this isn’t a final version of Google Now it might not function correctly on all machines. The fact that a semi-functional version of Google Now on Chrome exists makes it likely that it will appear at I/O.
Google Babel becomes Hangouts
Google Babel is the codename for an upcoming service that rolls together Google’s communication apps, such as Google Talk and Messenger. Some of its features are available in the Google+ app for iOS and Android, but will later extend to Chrome and Gmail. An internal Google memo surfaced in April, detailing possible features for Babel. These included syncing across Chrome/Android/iOS, a desktop app, emoticons, and notifications closing when opened on another device. The memo also refers to Babel as Hangouts, which is rumored to be the real name on release. Many specifications within the document may have changed after the leak, and we wait eagerly to see what is shown at Google I/O.
Apps and games for Google Glass
Google Glass is already in the hands of developers and is planned to go full retail the second quarter of 2014. The first corresponding Android app, MyGlass, lets you manage Google Glass and sync it to your phone. This further allows sending SMS text messages and location services. In the MyGlass code was evidence of gaming services, with speculation that game developers will have greater freedom when designing future interfaces. Other parts of MyGlass’s code revealed possible gestures and winking controls. Finally, a tweet from Shivster Muddler revealed a Twitter for Glass app, but was soon deleted. All of these discoveries may prompt Google to showcase concrete info about Glass apps at I/O. A focus on popular visually intensive apps such YouTube, Facebook, and Vine seem like a good match for Google Glass. This would be a great way to wet buyer’s appetite for Google Glass, namely if the retail version is close to the developer version’s $1,500 price tag.
Games from Google Play Studio
The first day of Google I/O is packed with more game-related developer sessions than the previous year. Five Android sessions are focused completely on games. Google has always encouraged game developers in the past, but it seems that the company might be focusing on designing first party titles. LinkedIn was scoured and uncovered profile of Noah Falstein whose position is ‘Chief Game Designer at Google’, having joined the company in April. Falstein has previously worked at game studios such as LucasArts and DreamWorks Interactive. Further searches through LinkedIn lead to the profile of Electronic Arts veteran Rachel Bernstein, now Executive Producer – Android Play Studio. While with EA, Bernstein worked on The Sims Medieval and MySims Agents. This may suggest that Google intends to focus more on mainstream Android games, though social gaming still remains addictive and profitable on mobile devices. Nothing has leaked about what Google Play Studios is working on right now, but the previously mentioned MyGlass code does point towards game support. Google should use I/O to announce their official plans for games.
Jelly Bean or Key Lime Pie
(Image by Google engineer Manu Cornet)
Android OS has been under version 4.X since the end of 2011, and it’s curious if the next update will take it to 5.0 or just 4.3. Either way, Jelly Bean will eventually be succeeded by Key Lime Pie. Though, It’s questionable if the announcement will be at Google I/O. Many phones on the market aren’t even running Jelly Bean 4.2 yet, and rumors from ‘inside sources’ say that Google may withhold debuting Key Lime Pie to let manufacturers catch up. Other users dug into server logs showing Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 using Jelly Bean 4.3. Google may have a change of heart and surprise everyone with 5.0, or at least hype consumers while putting a thorn into Apple and iOS 7.
Android@Home might not be dead
Android@Home was announced back at I/O 2011, but has since gone dormant. Android@Home is a home automation system, allowing various household appliances to be controlled by your Android device. One of the first devices showcased was an Android connected LED light bulb. This was never released, but there is evidence that the project isn’t completely dead. Jelly Bean 4.2.2’s system configuration files mention networking to Android@Home.
Android@Home’s true potential won’t be just on its own. If it is showcased at this years’ I/O it could be integrated with Google Now. The app’s continually updating knowledge graph could sync with Android@Home, showing information about music on your sound system or how much electricity you’re wasting. This is just theoretical: Google could have different plans.
Have we guessed right
We’ve laid out possible announcements at Google I/O, ranging from near guarantees with Google Maps to pipe-dreams like Android@Home. We’re confident that at least half of them will come true, but with a company as ambitious as Google who can say for sure. At last year’s I/O keynote, Nexus Q and its small library of apps were fully hyped, but users backlashed due to its lack of features and high price. The device was dropped completely four months later. We’ve also mostly focused on Google’s first party plans, but could see third party announcements, like Rovio’s Angry Birds on Chrome during the 2011 keynote. This year’s Google I/O starts on May 15th where we’ll see if our predictions come true.
Stay tuned for our coverage of I/O next week.