At its tenth anniversary, Google I/O returns to Mountain View where the first I/O was held in 2006. It is also next to the home of Google and speaks to Google’s growing influence over developers as they flock to the sold-out conference.
This year’s outdoor location allowed Google to host nearly 7,000 attendees at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. The main stage and the parking area were converted into a tech village with the main stage hosting the keynote and 10 smaller stages, covering the entire gamut from Android to Apps to IOT and wearables.
The highlights of the conference was delivered on Wednesday by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc, who outlined Google’s vision to bring its search and AI technology closer to users. The scope of the announcements underscore Google’s ambition in furthering the art of possible in computing.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Android N anchors Google’s dominance in mobile and the latest version “N” brings it closer to being a full desktop replacement. Split windows and quick task switching (“Alt-TAB” or "CMD-TAB” anyone?) enable users to work with multiple apps effortlessly. Android N offers a new mode called Direct Boot, which empowers the Android device with several new capabilities. One of them is the ability to perform system updates to the device in the background and upon reboot, the device is seamlessly upgraded. If this process sounds familiar, it should, because parts of the code used in the seamless upgrade process for Chromebooks is now being leveraged on Android.
- Android for Work continues to be enhanced in Android N. One of its key features includes enabling users to turn work mode on and off so you don’t have to worry about reading emails while getting notifications about your weekend parties. Another key feature includes enforcing work security challenges to protect the work profile, allowing enterprises to secure their apps and data with stricter security.
- Potentially the most revolutionary, is Android Instant Apps. With Instant Apps, users and apps can send messages and email with links to in-app content that can be consumed by recipients without installing the app. This innovation allows recipients to download and “launch” an app with a single tap without having to go through the entire installation. App developers can now offer their native app experience to a broader audience and this feature is backwardly compatible to Jelly Bean, meaning that this feature will be available to the vast population of Android devices in the market today.
- At last year’s Google I/O, Android M was unveiled with its first Developer Preview. This year, Android N reached its THIRD Developer Preview, and a draft API was made available on Wednesday. In previous releases (Lollipop and Marshmallow), commercial devices were only introduced after the holiday season. Will this early availability change our holiday shopping habits?
- By far, the bulk of developer sessions at Google I/O this year covers the new Virtual Reality (VR) platform, Daydream. This program introduces smartphone optimizations in Android N, a reference hardware design and a suite of apps to offer a complete platform for developers, content providers and users to create, deliver and consume VR content.
- Allo and Duo are Google’s renewed attempt to break into the messaging and video call market. Allo offers messaging with enhanced expression (emojis on steroids and BIGGER TEXT), but its major innovation lies in the Google Assistant powered, context-sensitive “suggested responses.” Nobody mentioned “chatbot,” but my first question is how will two “Allo” powered personas fare? Duo is a familiar take on video calling, with its “Knock, knock” offering more context to the recipient.
- Google Assistant and Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa. Positioned as entertainment hubs with voice recognition, these are aimed squarely at home use where voice control becomes the rule and not the exception. Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker, connected to the same Google’s voice control that powers its search engine (one fifth of mobile searches are voice searches). While Pichai acknowledged Amazon for popularizing the category, Google’s main differentiator is a device backed by Google’s AI and machine learning platform.
No other company in the world has the breadth and depth of offering such as Google has, and the upcoming features announced at Google I/O underscore its role at the center of technology innovation. It looks like 2016 will be a busy year for Google (and the rest of us!)