10 massive announcements from Google I/O: A new version of Android is coming for cars, smartwatches and TVs

6:48AM | 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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Government to pick a fight with food and grocery industry over new regulations

6:24PM | Wednesday, 12 June

A new proposal to give food products a rating out of five stars will be put to federal and state ministers under a new plan to cut obesity, according to reports.   The proposal, to be put to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council meeting, will see foods rated on their nutritional value, although the food and grocery industry will write to health ministers expressing concerns over the plan.   The plan will initially be trialled as a voluntary code with the possibility of being made mandatory and comes after the government abandoned its controversial planned ‘traffic lights’ nutritional information system in 2011.   Fair Work architect warns bullying claims could overload the system   University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart, one of the architects behind the Fair Work Act, has warned the government’s proposed bullying changes threaten to overload the system.   “If you look at the numbers the commission has said it is planning on, now that's a huge number, as it is,” Stewart says.   “I certainly think it would have been more sensible to build in some form of filtering mechanism to deal with bullying complaints.”   Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda to recall cars over gearbox issues   Auto brands Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda have all announced Australian recalls over concerns about gearbox failures, impacting around 26,000 cars.   The recall follows a coronial inquest into the death of a 32-year-old Melbourne woman named Melissa Ryan, who was killed in an accident while driving a 2008 VW Golf on the Monash Freeway.   The recall impacts vehicles made between June 2008 and September 2011 fitted with Volkswagen’s DSG transmission system.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.84% to 14,994.77. The Aussie dollar is up to US94.25 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Treasury admits budget errors but downplays recession fears

6:23PM | Thursday, 6 June

Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson has sought to allay fears that parts of the Australian economy are on the brink of recession as the economy shifts during a Senate estimates hearing.   “We cautioned that this transition would not necessarily be smooth. It has been the case that over the last half decade or so, the vast bulk of GDP growth has been sourced out of the mining and mining-related sectors ... and the non-mining parts of the economy have been experiencing very sluggish growth,” Parkinson said.   However, Parkinson has admitted Treasury might have been overly optimistic about commodities prices while putting together the federal budget.   “Commodity prices have moved significantly over the course of the last six months. Should we respond to what's happened in the last week and override where we were? We chose to sit and I take full responsibility for that. With hindsight, I would have been better off jumping in the other direction,” he said.   Volkswagen announces support hotline but no recalls   Volkswagen’s Australian general manager John White has announced a new support line for people concerned with potential safety faults with their vehicles and a campaign to contact affected owners, but stopped short of announcing a recall over engine faults.   “Are we going to be able to fix every customer, I’m not sure I can promise that but we’re going to get to every customer. We’re going to get legitimate issues, we’ll do everything we can to repair the issue. Safety, it’s a top priority,” White said.   Concerned Volkswagen owners can email the company at [email protected] or phone the hotline on 1800 504 076.   Clive Palmer fights $90 million tax bill   Mining tycoon and prime ministerial aspirant Clive Palmer is challenging a $90 million tax bill in the Federal Court.   Palmer claims his private company, Mineralogy, overstated capital gains it originally declared from the sale of mining rights held by a subsidiary called Sino Iron to a Chinese-based company called Citic Pacific.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.5% to 15040.6. The Aussie dollar is up to US96.16 cents.

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