Google’s annual I/O conference is only two days away but leaks and rumors leading up to this year’s show have been going strong for quite a while. In an effort to brace ourselves for Mountain View’s latest contributions to the tech world, we’ve decided to discuss what we might be seeing in the next couple of days. While some of these items are a given, others are a mix of rumors and speculation. There’s no guarantee that everything listed here will be announced during I/O, but we eventually expect to see these projects from Google at some point in time. That being said, here are some things that we might see this year in San Francisco.
Google is making a huge push for wearables, so we’re expecting Android Wear to be one of the hottest topics at this year’s I/O. Just about every major player in the consumer tech industry is working on a smartwatch powered by Mountain View’s new operating system. It’s even rumored that developers attending this year’s show will receive a next-gen timepiece as an incentive to help this new platform thrive.
Although we’d like to see a Google-made watch announced this week, we just don’t see it happening this early in Android Wear’s development. Instead, we’ll likely see the platform demonstrated on third-party hardware like the LG G Watch and the Moto 360. By not releasing its own smartwatch right away, Google has more time to focus on improving Android Wear’s software.
Remember, the first Android-powered smartphone went on sale in 2008 and we didn’t see the first purebred Nexus device until a couple of years later. In the case of Android Wear, we’re expecting a similar situation. So don’t hold your breath waiting for Google to announce a smartwatch of its own.
Whether it be Android Lollipop, Lemon Drop or Android Licorice, there have been several rumors floating around that a follow up to KitKat is in the works and it definitely makes sense. Google announced Ice Cream Sandwich eight months after the release of Honeycomb and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was revealed eight months later. Android 4.4. KitKat was announced about nine months ago, so a successor isn’t too far-fetched.
We’d expect the newest flavor of Android to play nice with Android Wear as well as have some type of connection with the search giant’s new fitness platform, rumored to be called “Google Fit.” Also, since the company is deep-sixing Google Voice in favor of Hangouts, this would be an opportunity to focus on cross-platform messaging. Apple is bridging the communication gap between its mobile and desktop platforms and we expect Google to tighten things up with its newest version of Android.
Word on the street is that Google plans to do away with its Nexus smartphone program and replace it with something called “Android Silver.” This rumored change in direction would see multiple manufactures producing near-stock versions of Android, instead of a single device being released by one of Google’s partners. It’s also rumored that Mountain View will work closely with wireless carriers to support this new product line. The company will reportedly offer training to authorized retailers, along with specialized kiosks that focus on compatible devices.
If Android Silver does end up replacing Google’s Nexus program, it’ll likely come with a few tradeoffs. While these new handsets are rumored to offer premium hardware and top-shelf customer support, its heavy carrier evolvement could mean higher price points for people looking to get their next phone without a contract. Whether or not we hear about it in the next few days, Android Silver is rumored to start early next year.
Chromebook Pixel 2
Chromebooks are typically billed as affordable alternatives to traditional laptops, but this isn’t always the case. Last year, Google shocked the tech world a bit by releasing its first genuine flagship Chrome OS-powered notebook, the Chromebook Pixel. With a starting price of $1,300, this Rolls-Royce of Chromebooks set the standard for power users and early adopters of Google’s alternative to Windows and OS X. But despite its rock solid build quality and razor sharp 2,560 x 1,700 12.85-inch display, the Pixel was widely considered a marketing ploy and an impractical purchase.
Still available to buy from Google Play, the Chromebook Pixel is due for a follow up. Whether it be a direct sequel or a new device entirely, it’s time for a new flagship Chromebook. However, if Google doesn’t announce a new high-end Chrome OS-powered laptop, we’d at least expect to see the aging Pixel receive some type of price cut at the very least.
Let’s face it, Google hasn’t had the best luck with set-top boxes. Google TV is pretty much dead in the water and the $300 Nexus Q bombed big time. While some believe the Chromecast is Google’s last effort to capture people’s living rooms, the company is reportedly developing a new platform called Android TV. Unlike Google’s budget-friendly media stick, Android TV aims to be a high-end blend of films, television, music, apps and games. Pretty much in the vein of Amazon’s Fire TV, this unannounced platform has been referred to as “Android optimized for the living room.”
With the exception of the Chromecast, Google has historically announced its TV-connected offerings during I/O. If the company is truly working on a new set-top box, what better place than a conference loaded with developers? Also, some of the alleged Android TV screenshots showed listings for video games. This could possibly corroborate claims that Google is working on an Android-powered game console.
Android in the car
Google recently revealed its homegrown self-driving car, but it has its share of regulatory hoops to jump through, so we don’t expect it to have a huge presence at this year’s I/O. Even so, the company is still working on bringing Android to your car. Earlier in the year, the search giant announced the Open Automotive Alliance. Partnering with auto industry heavyweights like Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Google is working on a new in-car entertainment experience. Recently, a stockpile of information about the platform hit the web, which gives the impression that its development could be further along than expected.
Even if Android Silver is the real deal, there’s a good chance that it could be limited to smartphones. This means that we could be in line for some new tablets from Google. The company’s Nexus 10 is seriously due for an update and if Google plans on competing with larger tablets like the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro, it’ll need something bigger than the Nexus 7.
Speaking of Google’s seven inch slab, you’ll likely want to hold off on buying its current model, no matter how affordable it may be. So far the company has released a new Nexus 7 each year, so we’re not expecting 2014 to be any kind of exception. Don’t be surprised if Google announces the third installment in its pocket-friendly tablet lineup.
Also, Google recently announced that a Project Tango prototype tablet was coming later this year. Priced at $1,024 and targeting developers, this device sounds like the perfect product to give attendees. While it may sound like an expensive gift, remember, Google did give I/O attendees Chromebooks Pixels, so this seems well within range.
Further extending the availability of its high-tech eyewear, Google recently made Glass available to consumers in the US and UK. There have been rumors of the company making Glass available in additional markets, but even if these claims fizzle out, we’re certain that there will be a huge push for consumer and enterprise Glassware, along with a look at Google’s future plans for its budding platform. Hopefully we’ll get an idea of a more consumer-friendly version of Glass with a much more affordable asking price.
The big show (possible surprises)
So there you have it! We’ve listed some of the things we expect to see during this year’s conference, but it’s very possible that we could end up seeing a whole lot more. Remember, Google is working on a lot of different things. The company is busy going green, making the internet faster and bringing the World Wide Web to the furthest corners of the globe, so we won’t be surprised if it announces something new and unheard of in the next few days. Whatever the case, we’ll be there to bring you the latest and greatest that Mountain View has to offer, so keep it locked here. It’s going to be an exciting week.