10 massive announcements from Google I/O: A new version of Android is coming for cars, smartwatches and TVs6:48AM | Thursday, 26 June
Google’s head of Android, Sundar Pichai, delivered a keynote speech overnight to the tech giant’s annual developer conference, Google I/O. In terms of big announcements, he didn’t disappoint, with key points including a new version of Android – called Android L – that will work with smart cars, wearables and TVs. For small businesses, a major piece of news is Google Drive for Work, a new cloud computing product set to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Office 365 and OneDrive. The new product will cost businesses just $US10 per user per month, and allow them to access unlimited storage. Where Microsoft bumped its storage limits to one terabyte earlier this week, Google will allow individual files of up to five terabytes in size. Meanwhile, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are now able to create or save Microsoft Office files in both Android and Chrome Browser, with support coming soon to iOS. Here are 10 other massive announcements from the Google I/O keynote: 1. Android is absolutely hammering Apple in the marketplace Sorry Apple fans, but the iPhone has well and truly been left in the dust. According to figures read out during Pichai’s keynote, the number of users to have actively used an Android smartphone in the past 30 days has grown to over a billion. This is up from 77 million in 2011, 233 million in 2012, and 538 million last year. But it’s not just in smartphones that Apple is being left behind. Google revealed that in 2012, 39% of all tablets ran Android, growing to 49% last year. This year, that has grown to 62%. In even worse news for the iPad, those figures exclude non-Google Android devices such as Amazon’s Kindle. As if Google needed to stick the boot in to Apple further, Pichai told the conference: “If you look at what other platforms are getting now, many of these things came to Android four, maybe five years ago.” The quote was a reference to a number of features, such as maps, text prediction, cloud services, widgets and support for custom keyboards, which have long been features of Android since around version 1.5, but have only recently been added to iOS. 2. Android L, with a new app platform and interface The biggest news out of the conference was, of course, the newest version of Android, codenamed “Android L”. The latest version is designed to power a range of new devices, including wearables, cars and TVs. The assumption will be that while users will always carry their mobile around with them, they are increasingly likely to be simultaneously using a second device. Cosmetically, the new version will be built around a new, “flat” design language called “Material”, which bears a slight resemblance to Microsoft’s tile interface. The new interface will be carried through Google’s mobile apps, including its Chrome web browser. However, the biggest changes are under the hood, with Android L getting upgraded to 64-bit. It also adds BlackBerry-style containerisation separating work and personal apps. Meanwhile Dalvik, the app runtime environment used in Android, is getting dumped in favour of the new Android Runtime Environment (ART). For most developers, the change will mean better performance with no need to change their code. ART is also truly-platform, meaning developers will be able to write apps once and deploy them to devices running Intel x86, ARM or MIPS processors. Android L will be available to developers starting from today. 3. Android Wear One of the big growth areas for mobile device makers is in wearables. Google has developed a platform for these devices, known as Android Wear, which it demonstrated at the conference. “Android Wear supports both round and square displays, because we think there will be a wide array of fashionable choices,” said Pichai. As many have predicted, notification cards and Google Now integration are key features of its wearables platform. LG has made its first Android Wear device, the LG G Watch, available for pre-order, while Samsung is releasing a version of its Gear smartwatches that runs Android Wear, known as “Samsung Gear Live”. Meanwhile, Motorola’s smartwatch, with a round clockface, will be available later this year. For developers, Google has made a software development kit (SDK) available allowing for customer user interfaces, support for voice actions, and transferring data to or from a smartphone or tablet. This article continues on Page 2. Please click below. 4. Android Auto Google has also released its smart car platform, known as Android Auto. Google says it has now signed up 25 major auto makers to the platform, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Volvo, Volkswagen, Kia, Renault, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, Jeep, Suzuki and Nissan. Android Auto will be able to be driven by voice commands, and is designed to make app development for cars as simple as developing apps for smartphones and tablets. Again, for developers, Google has released an SDK allowing for car and auto apps. Key focuses for the platform are navigation (Google Maps), communications (both audio and messaging) and streaming audio services. Android Auto also contains a screen that displays notification cards in real time. 5. Android TV Google’s new smart TV platform, announced during the keynote, is known as Android TV. It can be used to power a range of different devices, from smart TVs to set-top-boxes and dedicated streaming sticks. Android TV allows the user to use their smartphone, tablet or smartwatch as a voice-powered remote control for their TV. Android TV devices will include all the functionality of ChromeCast, but also add the ability of directly running apps directly. 6. ChromeCast Speaking of things TV related, Google says its low-cost ChromeCast sticks are currently outselling every other streaming device combined. New capabilities coming to the sticks include a new section on the Google Play app store for apps designed with added ChromeCast capabilities. ChromeCast owners will soon be able to mirror the screen of their Android smartphone or tablet wirelessly on their TV screen. Users will also soon get the capability of sending content to a ChromeCast device by logging in with a PIN, even if they aren’t on the same WiFi network. Another new feature is that users will be able to set a picture or photo as a wallpaper on their ChromeCast for when they’re not using the device. 7. Android L integration with ChromeBooks Up until now, Google has maintained two separate operating systems: Android for smartphones and tablets, and Chrome OS for its ChromeBook series of laptops. A massive update for Android L is that ChromeBooks will now be able to run Android apps. Meanwhile, apps running on a users’ tablet or smartphone will be mirrored on the screen of their ChromeBook device. 8. Google Fit At Apple’s WWDC, the introduction of a health framework was one of the largest announcements. Given the sheer volume of announcements at Google I/O, the introduction of Google Fit is almost an afterthought. Basically, like Apple HealthKit, Google Fit is a single set of APIs that blends data from multiple apps and devices to create a comprehensive picture of a users’ health. Google is promising a developer preview of Google Fit in the next few weeks. 9. Google Play Already, I’ve noted one big upgrade to Google Play, namely the addition of a section dedicated to apps with ChromeCast playback. Presumably, there will be similar sections dedicated to Android Wear and Android Auto. But there are other changes afoot for Google’s Play download store. First, Google says that it has paid out $US5 billion to app developers over the past year, which is two-and-a-half times higher than a year earlier. Second, Google also announced the takeover of a startup called Appurify, which will provide automation services for apps being developed either for Google Play and Android or iOS. And thirdly, for those interested in games, Google Play is adding the ability to save a snapshot of your progress in a game to the cloud, as well as special quests for games. 10. Cloud tools and services Last, but certainly not least, Google has added a range of new cloud tools and services. These include Cloud Monitoring, which provides a dashboard with real time metrics for apps running in Google’s cloud services. A second, called Cloud Dataflow, is a data pipeline service similar to Amazon’s Data Pipeline. And a third, called Cloud Debugger, allows developers to more easily trace slowdowns in cloud-based apps. This article first appeared on Smart Company.
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