Google I/O is back again and they are back with a bang! It was an awesome day at the conference and had something for everyone. It was all action-packed stuff which kept the 6,000 attendees and millions globally watching online stuck to the edge of their seats. And I really do mean action, of the zeppelin-skydiving, squirrel-suit-flying, convention-center-roof-jumping and rappelling-down-buildings sort. With a whopping $900 per head fee and ironical record 20 minute sold out of starting of the sale of tickets in March earlier this year, many recognized developers missed out on the opportunity and were left crying out loud. But more on that later, let’s talk about what was announced.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Amongst all the speculations it was rather but confirmed that Jelly Bean was coming, yet it left all mesmerized and even more surprised! The highlight of the day was Project-Butter which was all about better touch responsiveness for those who considered Android laggy when compared to iOS.
They explained how the operating system works and responds to touch with an eye towards every little thing they can do to make everything “buttery smooth” — hence the project name. The results were impressive. They used RED cameras operating at 300 frames per second to record the response times of devices running Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich, with Jelly Bean clocking in much faster.
There are many other improvements throughout, including auto-arranging of icons, magic resizing, predictive keyboard, improved dictionary, and–another highlight–hugely improved voice interface. It was impressive in the demo, the voice was noticeably better than Siri’s voice, and it was capable of taking accurate dictation with the ability to recognize the context of a sentence, realize it made a mistake several words ago, and automatically fix it. Still, we’ll have to see how it works out in the wild to really get a sense of it. Naturally, you can expect that Google only demoed it with queries it knew it could handle nicely. They’ve made strides with accessibility as well, including improved language support and 18 new languages, as well as many improvements to aid the blind, including external Braille input.
Search has been drastically improved using Google’s knowledge graph in something they’re calling Google Now. They’ve gone down the road of using what the device knows about you from your search history, your calendar and your location to be able to predict things you’ll want to know about. It’ll also learn your patterns and schedules. If you habitually take the bus, for instance, it’ll know how long you take to get to the bus stop and will tell you when the bus is going to arrive. It looks like an incredibly powerful feature, though it does have some possible creepy factor to it, too.
One feature they kind of rushed past was “application encryption,” which is their way of saying DRM. It’s available in Android 4.1, to some developers’ delight and many consumers’ woe. Smart app updates that only require you to download the parts that have changed are a more welcome addition.
Android 4.1 will start rolling out to Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, and Xoom devices starting in mid-July, and the SDK is already available.
Asus Galaxy Nexus Tablet 7
Google unveiled its first tablet today. The Nexus 7 aims straight at the market that Amazon baited with the Kindle Fire, but kicks everything up a notch. It is Google’s way of saying that it cannot let Kindle Fire run it dry. The tablet runs on Android 4.1 and comes with a new interface and emphasis on Google Play. The interface appears to look more like the Galaxy Nexus, but with extra large icons and new media-rich widgets to better resemble the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. Its specs include:
A 7?, 1280×800 HD display at 216 ppi 1.2MP front-facing camera 16 GB internal storage(No MicroSD slot) 1 GB RAM 9 hours of battery life Quad-core Tegra 3 processor Wi-Fi and Bluetooth(No 3G) A micro-USB port A 12 core GPU Weighs a meager 340 grams No physical buttons And some other features you might expect, like microphone, NFC (“Android Beam”), accelerometer, GPS, magnetometer and gyroscope.
It’s the first Android device to have Chrome as its default browser. The real star feature is the price though. It’s $199 for 8 GB internal storage, or $249 for the 16 GB version, and you get a $25 Google Play store credit with it. When released, it may cost us around Rs. 13,500, similar to that of Kindle Fire and who knows Google decides to surprise us all.
Google Nexus Q
It looks like it should be some sort of competition to the Apple TV, but Google already has the Google TV. The Nexus Q has no internal storage; it works directly off the cloud. It requires an Android device to use it. And speaking of Google TV, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between it and the Q. They really hype the feature that you can install more than one Q in your house and play music anywhere, which makes it sound like an intelligent wireless cloud speaker. At $300 each though, that’s weird. They describe it as a “social streaming” device. It’s social because you can have a playlist of songs or movies playing, and a friend can come in, use his or her own Android device, and change your playlist, adding content to it from his or her own Play account.
The interesting part about that which I do like is that it really does look like they’ve simplified the sharing to the point that DRM and permissions are handled automatically and verified invisibly, so that you don’t have to worry about it; to get your music on your friend’s Q, you just get your phone on the network and the devices negotiate the rest.
Still, the success of the device in the market is under cloud.
Here, they pulled out something which was completely out of the box. They even had to interrupt the conference, as reports reveal, to have this stunt performed. But, what they did stunned everybody. They had 5 base jumpers in squirrel suits in a zeppelin above San Francisco, all wearing Project Glass glasses, all in a Google+ hangout together. All 5 jumped out of the zeppelin, recording their points of view in the hangout as they flew using the suits. They landed on top of the Moscone convention center, where another set of people waited on bicycles. These cyclists took off, all wearing the glasses in the hangout, and headed for a ramp on the roof. They hit the ramp and jumped to the next roof. They then switched off to yet another group of people who rappelled down the side of the building to the third floor, (except for a couple who went too far, all the way to the ground,) and then rode bikes right into the convention center and up onto the stage to talk with the host.
They didn’t just pull the stunt for the sake of pulling the stunt. It was impressive, and really gave a sense for some freakish uses for the glasses, but the true takeaway is that it’s slowly getting closer to becoming a consumer project. Right now the hardware is very beta, but developers who are physically present at Google IO this year can buy their way into getting a dev unit next year–for $1,500.
· Google Play is getting new titles, including magazines and TV content.
· Improvements to maps include offline maps as a stock feature and an indoor analogue to street view which works with the gyro.
· Google briefly touched on Google cloud messaging on JB 4.1.
· With Google+ Events, you can now set up times and dates and events in Google+ (and Google Calendar) and manage parties and special occasions. One cool new feature is “Party mode,” which lets everyone at a party automatically upload their pictures to the Google+ event page.
That does it for today.
Stay tuned for the entire reportage for day two and three.
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