May 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM ET
Google I/O, the tech giant's annual developer conference, kicks off with a keynote event on Wednesday.
Based on rumors, leaks, and well-educated guesswork, we expect to hear about an Android upgrade, shiny new Google+ features, a Maps redesign, a Google Play Games app, and perhaps even some new hardware.
Android and Chrome
This Google I/O is "going to be different" from what we're used to, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai — who leads the Android, Chrome, and apps teams — explained in a recent Wired interview. "It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system."
Pichai poured cold water on rumors that Android and Chrome would be combined into a single operating system. "The picture may look different a year or two from from now," he said, "but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course."
Still, it wouldn't be a proper Google I/O if there wasn't some sort of update to Android. Android Police's Artem Russakovskii says odds are good that we won't hear about a new flavor of the mobile operating system though. "I can definitively tell you that Google is currently working on Android 4.3, and it is still Jelly Bean," he writes, citing information revealed in server logs and reader tips.
Google Play Games
After tearing down the latest Google Play services, a component used to update Google apps, Android Police's Ron Amadeo believes we'll be hearing about Google Play Games. This new service will bring multiplayer functionality, leaderboards, achievements and the like to your Android devices. The whole thing sounds like a souped-up version of the iOS Game Center.
We wonder what will happen to Google+ Games, considering that the new service seems to push users to the social network. (In other words: Google will likely retire good ol' Google+ Games.)
Google+, which launched on June 28, 2011, is nearing its second birthday. Given how Google is weaving all its services into the social network, we expect that it'll be in the spotlight during Google I/O. Perhaps it's time for a bit of polish and a user interface redesign?
There have been plenty of rumors regarding a unified chat system — one which will combine Google Talk, Messenger, and Hangouts. Codenamed "Babel," this cross-platform messenger service is believed to be dubbed "Hangouts." (Yes, that might be confusing, considering that Google's video-chat feature is also called Hangouts.)
Details and screenshots leaked by Geek.com and Tech Radar suggest that the new Hangouts will be platform agnostic (meaning that they'll work just fine on Android, iOS, in the browser and so on), bring plenty of new emoji, message syncing across devices and more.
Traditionally, Google's latest hardware lineup leaks prior to Google I/O, but this year things have been fairly calm. All Things D's Mike Isaac says that "sources familiar with the matter" suggest that we won't hear anything new about the Nexus Q, Google's ball-shaped media player, this year. Some photos of a white Nexus 4 model have floated around, but some suggest that this was just a variation of the devices handed out to some Google employees.
The lucky folks who've managed to snag a Google Glass unit received their first monthly update, XE 5, last week. We doubt that there'll be another update at Google I/O, but perhaps we'll hear from some developers who are surely busy making apps — also known as "Glassware" — for the futuristic headgear, or get more details about a version of Glass that's compatible with prescription eyeglasses.
Who knows, though? Perhaps Google is becoming better when it comes to keeping things under wraps. Maybe we'll see a new tablet, a new smartphone, and that long-rumored smart watch.
In September 2012, Google announced that it acquired Nik Software, maker of several popular photo editing products. The Nik team is now part of the Google+ Photos team. Hello, new Web-based editing tools?
The folks at the (unofficial) Google Operating System blog got their hands on some screenshots which suggest that Maps will see quite a redesign. It looks like the sidebar will disappear and we'll instead get a full-screen map with some overlays for directions, location details, and similar items.
All Things D's Liz Gannes reports that sources claim Google will not be announcing long-rumored physical credit card. This card was expected to allow users to pay for purchases with their Wallet accounts, meaning that the Wallet card could stand in place of any other credit card. "Google CEO Larry Page abruptly killed the card launch plan after he was displeased with a glitchy run-through demo last week," Gannes writes.
Could there be some curveballs which we didn't anticipate? Sure. Google could make a big Google TV announcement out of the blue (though we doubt it) or reveal that it's been working on a time travel machine (which we'd imagine would somehow involve those self-driving cars).
We'll just have to wait until Wednesday's keynote to find out and update you. So keep your eyes open for plenty of news, live beginning at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET. Be sure to have some snacks prepared though, because the keynote is expected to last several hours.
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