Google I/O, the annual technology conference, kicks off today with new-product speculation ranging from a set-top box that would be its Android answer to Apple TV, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV to new functionality for the oft-maligned Google Glass. Look for progress, not fireworks.
“The razzle-dazzle we saw two years ago, when skydivers wearing Google Glass landed on top of the Moscone Center roof and bicycled into the conference ballroom, likely won’t be matched (nor was it last year),” writes Forbes contributor Robert Hof. “But the breadth of what Google will be showing the 6,000 developers expected to attend may make up for that.”
Amid sessions such as “Framework for device storage and SD cards” and “Making your code faster: benchmarking and profiling” there will previews of gadgets, devices and services the erstwhile search engine company hopes will make a bigger dent in the consumer market.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rolfe Winkler reports that Google's set-top device “will carry another company's brand, but will be powered by Google's new Android TV software designed to play movies, games and other content on televisions,” according to two sources who have seen it.
“Users will be able to control the box using Android smartphones or tablets, and potentially other devices,” Winkler continues, which means that you can start to play a game on a smartphone and continue to play on your monster monitor at home.
Time’s Victor Luckerson points out that “although the event is geared towards software developers, Google often uses the conference to unveil big new consumer products — Google Glass got its first public demo at the 2012 conference, and Google’s paid music streaming service debuted last year.”
Besides the Android TV, Luckerson is expecting possible announcements for Android Wear, Android in the Car, a YouTube music service, a health-tracking device called Google Fit and new apps for Google Glass.
Forbes’ Parmy Olsen and Ewan Spence broke the story about Google Fit earlier this month, reporting that the service “will collect and aggregate data from popular fitness trackers and health-related apps” and compete directly with Apple’s forthcoming HealthKit framework for iOS8.
Meanwhile, USA Today’s Marco della Cava has a informative profile of Ivy Ross, Google’s new choice as head of the Google Glass project and “not your typical techie,” as the hed tells us. Ross is a “58-year-old woman with a background as an artist and marketer,” he writes, who will lead the “transition from its beta Explorer program to commercial launch.”
"Retail isn't one of our strong suits, and someone like Ivy can, more than a technologist, really help us understand how people experience eyewear, because in the end this is just smart eyewear,” Astro Teller, the technologist who had formerly led the Glass project, tells della Cava. “Besides ticking all the boxes, she's a warm person who brings out the best in people. And she's got patience, which everyone will need throughout this evolution.”
As Hof points out in Forbes, Google has “made a point of getting more women into the conference” this year. They will make up 20% of the attendee base this year, a spokesperson tells him, compared to about 7% in the past.
Besides a 12:30 p.m. women’s meetup today, Gabriella Levine, Yoky Matsuoka, and Jaime Waydo will lead “Robotics in a New World — Presented by Women Techmakers” tomorrow. It will answer such previously male-dominated conundrums as “What should you do when your robot gets a flat tire on Mars?”
“Design, Develop, Distribute” is the theme of this year’s conference, reports Engadget’s Brad Molen — “a slogan that doesn't reveal any major clues about what we can expect (aside from the fact that Google is focused on new design).”
But, he writes, “don't let its DevCon facade fool you: Google I/O has plenty of interesting stuff for everyone. Most of the company's big announcements come during the day one keynote.”