In much-hyped annual developer conferences Apple and Microsoft have both had their turns in the last couple of weeks to show off new products, refreshed operating systems, and more. Now the spotlight has turned to Google, which is holding its I/O conference in San Francisco June 27-29.
So far, the company hasn't failed to deliver. Google unveiled a dome-shaped "social streaming media player" called Nexus Q that streams music and videos to your HDTV, sound system, or speakers, and lets you watch and listen to other Android users' movies and music. The company also announced updates to Google+, and shared news on its Project Glass.
But for business users, four announcements take center stage:
Google: A Platform to Reckon With
According to Google, one million people were watching Google I/O today from a live stream on YouTube. Those are some impressive numbers, but the company threw around plenty more:
- Last year, Google announced 100 million Android devices had been activated. This year, it's up to 400 million, with 12 new activations every second.
- Android grew 500% in developing markets last year.
- People have downloaded 20 billion (note the B) apps from the Google Play store, which now offers 600,000 games and apps.
- In-app billing makes up 50% of revenue for developers using Google Play.
- In just a year 250 million people have signed up for Google+ with 150 million of them actually using the social network and 50% of them signing on daily (see my post about why it's not a ghost town).
- More people get onto Google+ with their mobile device than their desktop computer.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Unveiled
Google compared a handset running Android 4.0 with one running 4.1 and the result was striking. Dubbed "Project Butter" within Google, the initiative aimed to improve the responsiveness of the 4.0 OS. As a result, in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, scrolling, swiping, and animations really do seem smoother, and it can even predict where your fingers are going to be, resulting in better screen responsiveness.
But business users are going to particularly appreciate several new features.
Do you like the dictation feature in Ice Cream Sandwich that lets you speak the text of your email, text message, or search while you're on the move? In Jelly Bean you won't need a data connection to use it.
Search also looks to be pretty incredible. First, you can now ask Google questions with your voice and it will respond by reading the answer back to you--similar to Apple's Siri.
And remember earlier this year when Google consolidated all its privacy policies and said it would be making its products work better together by sharing data across them? Called Google Now, that collaboration between products is coming to life in Android 4.1. It uses things like your search history, your location history and your calendar to figure out what information you need and when you need it.
For instance, it can figure out the route and length of your usual commute to and from work and given the current traffic will tell you how long it will be as well as give you an alternate route if the roadways are clogged.
If you're waiting for public transit, Google Now tells you when the next bus or train will arrive. It also will show you bars, restaurants, or other venues nearby as you walk down the street.
And this is cool--let's say you normally take the subway and Google sees you have a meeting scheduled on your calendar. Google Now will tell you when to leave based on how long it will take you to walk to the train stop, when the next train arrives and how long the trip takes.
If you're a frequent traveler you'll love the feature that keeps you up-to-date on the status of your flight (if it's one that you searched for). Google Now tells you which terminal to go to and automatically lets you know if the flight has been delayed. It also knows when you're traveling and if it's in another country. Google will give you interactive cards that convert currencies and help you with translations.
Jelly Bean will roll out to the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S smartphones and the Motorola Xoom tablet in mid-July. Developers can get their hands on the developer's kit starting today from Google's Android developers site.
New Apps Will Be Fast and Use Less Data
Google also announced Google Cloud Messaging, a free service to help developers send data from servers to their Android applications on Android devices. The company claims it will improve app performance and cut down on data consumption.
Google also uncovered Smart App Updates, which only downloads to a device data that has changed in a particular app, instead of redownloading the whole thing. Again, this saves on data transfers as well as time.
Nexus 7 Tablet
Finally... the highly anticipated Google tablet is here.
The super-thin 7-inch tablet, made by Asus, has decent specs. It comes with a 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi), a 12-core CPU, and a 4325 mAh battery capable of nine hours of HD video play back on one charge. It's also the first of its size with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor.
It makes use of near field communications (NFC) technology, which will enable it to function as a virtual wallet, as well as GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 1.2MP front-facing camera which Google says will be great for video hangouts in Google+.
You can pre-order the Nexus 7 now directly from Google Play, although it won't ship until mid-July. With a price tag of $199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16GB version, you'll also get a $25 credit to spend in the Google Play store as well as free content such as the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the Robert Ludlum book The Bourne Dominion, and free magazines including Popular Science, Conde Nast Traveler, and others.
Clearly the Nexus 7 will take on Amazon's Kindle Fire head to head. But at such a killer price point, Apple could also lose some sales due to the fact that lots of people either can't or won't shell out $500 for an iPad 3 or even $400 for the iPad 2. All bets are off, however, if Apple really does come out with an iPad mini, as the rumor mill whispers it will.