June 27, 2012 at 12:36 PM ET
Google I/O, the search engine giant's annual developer conference is taking place in San Francisco, California this week. The show kicked off with a keynote event, and I was there to report live about all the things Google unveiled.
The fun started around 9:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. ET with Google's vice president of engineering, Vic Gundotra, stepping on stage to start things off. He thanked everyone for being here and asked us to shut off our wireless hotspots, in order to keep everything running smoothly.
Hugo Barra, Google's director of product management, took the stage almost right after that, to talk about some Android milestones. He explained that Android has seen over 400 million device activations. He added that over one million new Android devices are activated every day. (That's about 12 Android devices every second.)
Android Jelly Bean
The Google team didn't wait long to introduce folks to Jelly Bean aka Android 4.1.
Almost right away, the folks in attendance were ooh-ing and aah-ing as we saw how easily widgets can be rearranged in Jelly Bean, with everything resizing itself automatically to fit on the screen more neatly. But things got really loud in the conference center as we were shown that Jelly Bean will offer offline voice typing. (No more worrying about lousy reception affecting your handsfree typing.)
Other neat Jelly Bean features include the ability to quickly swipe back to photos you've just taken, the option to pair devices with a tap (via NFC) to share photos and video, and notifications which can be expanded (so that you can view your inbox without actually leaving the notification screen, for example).
"It's like they're reinventing Siri," a fella near me muttered, to no one in particular, as Jelly Bean's Knowledge Graph integration was shown off. The feature allows your Android device to answer questions — such as "which movies did Angelina Jolie star in?" — or take certain commands, which involve searches, such as "show me photos of tiny monkeys."
A tool called "Google Now" learns from your habits, your location and your calendar to offer you information you might need. For example, if you are in an area you don't usually travel through, Google Now might suggest some restaurants. If you happen to be at home and traffic conditions are bad, you might be offered alternate directions. The more you use Google Now, the smarter and more useful it should get.
Google Android 4.1 is expected to roll out to some devices in mid-July. (More on Jelly Bean's features here.)
There are more than 600,000 apps in Google Play and Google has seen over 20 billion Android app installs, we were told.
So what's new?
Well, developers will now be able to offer Smart App Updates, to devices on Gingerbread and above. This means that users will only have to download changed parts of an app, rather than re-downloading the whole thing every time there's an update.
Google Play will now also offer movies and television shows for purchase, along with magazines. Google has partnered with various studios and publishers to offer this content.
Looks like the rumors were true. Google's got a shiny new tablet, called the Nexus 7. It has a 1280 x 800 HD display, a Tegra 3 processor, a 12-core GPU, a front-facing camera, and more. It will run Google Android 4.1.
Google's team emphasized content consumption when it comes to Nexus 7. This tablet is "made for Google Play," we were told.
The Nexus 7 will start at $199 (this price will include a handful of movies and some magazines). The tablet can be ordered now and will start shipping mid-July.
Considering that Google Play will now include significantly more media, that the Nexus 7 hardware is pretty darn solid sounding, and that the price is right ... I'd say that Amazon's Kindle Fire has some strong competition to deal with now.
The Nexus Q is described as the "first ever social streaming device." It streams your media from the cloud and allows multiple people to sync up their playlists and queue up songs by using tablets or smartphones. The device — which somehow resembles a Death Star — will be priced at $299 and start shipping mid-July.
If everyone relied on a Nexus Q, parties could become hilarious as folks battle for control of the tunes by tapping their respective gadgets.
Google+ is turning one-year-old tomorrow and Google appears to be pretty proud of its social network. Over 250 million people have activated Google+ accounts and there are apparently over 150 million active users on the network. Half of those users sign into Google+ daily, we're told. Curiously enough more people are using Google+ on their mobile devices, rather than on their desktops.
So it's no surprise that Google is releasing a version of Google+ for tablets. An Android version will roll out today, and an iPad version will come soon.
There will also be some updates to Google+ itself, such as the addition of Events, Party Mode, and more. In essence, it will encourage folks to collaborate before, during, and after events.
The Google+ presentation was abruptly interrupted by Sergey Brin himself, who promised us a demo which could go wrong in a lot of ways. It turns out that a team of skydivers equipped with Google Glass was above the Moscone Center, where the Google I/O is taking place.
We watched them, through a Google Hangout, as they jumped onto the building's roof, handed a package — containing a pair of Google Glass ... err, glasses — off to a team of bikers. Those folks jumped over obstacles and passed the package over to some folks who scaled down the building, to the third floor, where another team of bikers waited to take the cargo over to Brin. (Screenshots from the stunt here.)
Whew! Once all the excitement died down, we were told that the latest prototype of Google Glass weighs less than a pair of sunglasses — and that there will be a variety of designs, not just the cyborg-like frames we initially saw.
In theory, you should be able to wear these glasses at any time, to capture a first-person view of everything you do.
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