What’s Cooking at Google I/O 2014

Google’s developer conference is in full swing now: eager developers, tech journalists, startup enthusiasts and anyone who is someone in tech in the Valley have gathered at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco to get in on the action that’s taking place over the two days.

With one more day to go, Wednesday’s keynote led by Sundar Pichai, a Google senior vice president who oversees Android, Chrome and Google apps was an intense and information rich affair. Inching along way past the two hour mark (much to the chagrin of those watching at the conference and via live-stream), the keynote rattled off dozens of fresh software and hardware initiatives.

Clearly, Google’s updated version of Android dubbed ‘L’ was at the high point of the event’s keynote. An inexpensive (under $100) phone was envisioned to court the huge section of non-smartphone users in the world. The interesting thread that kept getting featured was Android: on smart watches, in car dashboards, in the TV, and even on the body, with Android Fit, a fitness wearable platform positioned to rival Apple’s HealthKit.

Material Design for New Android and Mobile Chrome

Google’s bringing in new design elements to its updated Android L and the mobile web. Unifying the visual style across its mobile web and all the Android devices including wearables, Material Design is colorful and minimalistic, with a lot of breathing room for text. Elements, transitions and animations have been given a breath of reality. For instance, the search results in Chrome will show up as cards that feature fluid animations at 60 frames per second – so in essence, this feels like flipping through a picture book.

Deep Links All the Way

With mobile apps and the mobile web becoming mainstream, deep linking and app indexing have become momentously important. Google has addressed this, which lets developers enable Google to search within apps. A Google search will throw up results in the web, as well as within the app.

Wearable Technology

Android L comes with contextual awareness; voice-enabled and built as mobile first, this feeds into wearable implementations. Android Wear, while supporting circular or square screen configurations, interacts through voice, understands swipes, and relies on Google Now for contextual information.

While the full Android Wear SDK is now available, along with the LG G watch and Samsung gear Live, the Moto 360, the first round Android Wear watch, will be available later this summer (much to the crowd’s dismay).

Android in the Car and in Your TV

Google is getting inside your car, too.  The keynote unveiled Android Auto as a way to use connected Android apps in the car. Intuitively, this is also voice enabled and contextually aware and truly hacks “hands free” and “eyes free”.  Android seems to treat TV just as another Android screen: a slick interface that adapts to your usage and also includes Google cast support; all driven by Search to really drill down on what interests the user. Android TV also ports Google Play games to the big screen. Expected to open in the fall, the store, with tailored content for TV already has support lined up: Sony, Sharp, and manufacturers such as Razer and Asus are already at its doors.

The Case of the Missing Glass

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If there was something about Glass, it seems like the entire community missed it. Recently, Google signed a deal with Ray-Ban and Oakley to add a touch of fashion to Glass by adding prescription frames. Google even tried going enterprise first with Glass through a certification program. However, a cheaper, consumer version continues to elude them, most likely because the technology isn’t in place yet.

Google I/O All About Courting Developers

As Google proliferates into more areas, it is getting harder to persuade developers to build software around its products so they can flourish.

Competition for developers’ attention is intensifying: Tech industry giants have rightly identified the path toward success is by building an ecosystem around their products and platforms; the way to achieve that is to get more programmers to spread the ecosystem. Apple appealed to developers through their WWDC event earlier this month, Amazon revealed its own smart phone in the hopes of wooing programmers to build around it and Facebook’s F8 in April was all about tools for software developers too.