Yesterday, Google hosted its annual I/O conference in San Francisco and held in-depth presentations that showcased their latest achievements and what they were planning for the future. Everything involving Android, Chromebooks, API’s and more was discussed. Needless to say, it was a huge event.
With over 6,000 people in attendance, Google covered a lot of ground and unveiled many new features that are sure to be the topic of discussion among tech enthusiasts all over the world. In case you missed it, here are some of the major takeaways we can gather from the event:
Android is Getting a Major Makeover
The latest version of the Android operating system, codenamed the “L” release, will be launching this fall. This update comes just months after the introduction of KitKat and features a visual reboot that Google is referring to as “Material Design.” Android L’s interface is very minimalistic and everything from icons to applications will sport a simpler, and more square look.
Clearly influenced by Google Now, Android L will feature the popular stacked overview cards which are aimed at improving multitasking. Not only will a carousel of cards be displayed on your homescreen to access recently used apps and webpages, but they will now be displayed on the lockscreen as well. Everything from missed calls, text messages, e-mails, and more will all be accessible without unlocking your phone.
Despite all these new visual changes, the most noticeable difference in Android L will be its speed. The new OS will be powered by Android runtime (ART), which was first introduced on KitKat, and will be twice as fast as the old Dalvik runtime. ART also has better memory management, is more efficient at allocating resources, and allows for the addition of an Android Extension pack that boosts GPU performance that Google promises will bring PC-like gaming to phones and tablets.
The next generation of Android is built for the multi-screen world and Google wants it to look and act the same no matter what type of device you’re on. By creating a consistent user experience, Google believes they can add to their already one billion active Android users and continue to increase their app installs which have grown by 236 percent year-over-year.
Google Wants to Be on Your TV (Again)
Perhaps due to the success of their hugely popular Chromecast dongle, Google has decided to enter the television business once again with their very own set-top box. Their 2010 attempt to turn your television into an all-in-one device with Google TV was ambitious, but failed because it lacked a structured ecosystem. This time around, it seems like they got it right.
Powered by Android L, Google has partnered up with popular third-party content providers like Netflix and Hulu to add to their already strong offerings on Google Play and YouTube. Finding the right movie, television show, or song has been simplified by embedding Google Search right into Android TV, and users will be able to find what they’re looking for by saying things like “The Hobbit”, “Oscar nominated movies from 2006,” or “Brad Pitt movies.”
Google Play Games will also be available on Android TV and devices will come bundled with a controller. Gamers will be able to play multiplayer games online, earn achievements on the Google Play Games network, and enjoy it all in high-definition resolution. Google is taking gaming seriously and has partnered with Razer and Asus to develop the set-top boxes in addition to Sony and Sharp which will design the TVs.
As for your existing Chromecast, it too got an upgrade and devices no longer need to be connected to your Wi-Fi network to broadcast content. However, you may not need it anymore. Android TV’s built-in Google Cast offers the same functionality, but has the added feature of syncing across your devices in case you want to finish watching content on your phone, tablet, or computer. Google didn’t provide a timetable for Android TV but says it’s “coming soon.”
Android Apps are Coming to Chrome OS
Just like Apple has been integrating iOS into OS X, Google wants to do the same with Android and Chrome OS. The only difference is that Google wants to do more than just make it behave the same – they want it to be the same.
According to Google Senior Vice President, Sundar Pichai, this integration is “in the early days” but it’s already working for some apps. Evernote, Flipboard, and Vine were demonstrated on stage and seemed to function identical to their mobile counterparts. Unfortunately, not all Chromebooks come with touchscreens so widespread integration of this will take some time.
Earlier this month, Google released a new source code to developers for Chromium called “Athena” that gives us a sneak peek at what we can expect. Among the new features coming to Chrome OS is a virtual software keyboard, a new app launcher, and, of course, a card-based interface similar to Google Now.
Pichai, who previously was the head of Chrome, is now in charge of Android. It’s clear that he wants an integrated platform and allowing Android apps to come to Chrome OS is proof of thought. We just have to wait and see how long it will take for Chromebooks to catch up.
Google Has Big Plans in Store
A new Android OS design, Android TV, and updated Chrome OS are only part of Google’s master plan. Yesterday they also made available the first smartwatches which feature a brand new operating system catered to wearables called Android Wear, announced their Google Fit platform which will tackle Apple’s Healthkit head-on, previewed a new phone that will cost less than $100, and promised Android will be available inside your car very soon.
All these announcements lead me to believe one thing: Google is not only poised to dominate our tech lives, they are also ambitious as ever and are just getting started.
Watch the keynote presentation below: