Google Duplex

Today’s Google I/O 2019 Keynote day, which means it’s time for Google to announce… whatever it is they’re going to announce. We’re not going in blind, but Google I/O tends to be on the more surprising side of Google events — especially compared to Google hardware shows in recent years…

It’s a bit of a mixed bag on the hardware front. Phones are hard to keep secret and it seems like phone makers care less and less about leaks with every passing year. Today’s Pixel 3a launch is par for the course. We had all the details months ago, and we’ve even seen the device sitting on the shelf at Best Buy.

But unlike last year’s 10/9 #MadebyGoogle event, which had essentially zero surprises, today’s I/O ’19 hardware festivities are somehow set to bring a product we’ve not seen in full before it’s announced. A little sad, maybe, but that’s a big deal for Google. The last time that happened was with the Google Home Max? I think?

We don’t know what the software will be like (Google-esque, or more Nest-leaning?), we don’t know what the story with the rebrand from Home to Nest is all about, we don’t know how much it will cost, and we don’t know when it will be available. And, as I said, we don’t know what it looks like! It could just be a scaled-up version of the Home Hub, or maybe Google got a little inventive with a genuinely unique external design. We just don’t know, and as insignificant as that is, it’s significant.

There’s not been a visual leak, but like the Google Home Max in 2017, we do have some details on what the Nest Hub Max actually is. As I mentioned in our roundup, Google’s own self-leaking tells us it’s a larger version of the Google Home Hub with Nest branding, and a (presumed) dual-purpose camera (Duo calls and security!). So there’s that at least.

In this Google-follower’s humble opinion, the software side of today’s keynote is likely more unknown. We can make a smorgasbord of educated guesses about the categories in which Google will have announcements this morning, but the details are harder. Sure, there will be Google Assistant and AI announcements today, for example. But what announcements, specifically?

Let’s start with Android, though. The best hints at what we can expect to see announced around Android Q at Google I/O today actually come from previous beta releases of Android Q that — perhaps unwittingly — left breadcrumbs of details in the bowels of the operating system to be dug up. And some Google I/O sessions hint at things that have yet to be announced, too, such as:

Another interesting thing on Android Q is that a lot of the things we do know about, like scoped storage (or its walking back, as Ron at Ars mentions), APEX (which seemingly lets Android update parts of itself via the Play Store), “Dynamic Android”, and more don’t seem like main-keynote callouts.

Other things we do know we’ll be seeing on software include a new Assistant integration with Chrome for Android at I/O 2019. Thanks to a Google I/O session leak, we also have a strong idea of an accessibility initiative being shown off. These are both likely locks for the keynote, and they’re the kind of specific insights that have been rare. Contrast that with last fall’s hardware event, where there wasn’t a single detail that wasn’t leaked across three major new products.

Besides Android and Chrome OS, which are being developed in the open in more ways than one (but not entirely, obviously), Google’s software initiatives are much easier than hardware to keep under wraps. We know Assistant is finding its way into every corner of Google, and you should expect to see more of that today, but it’s fuzzy at best just which new ways that’s going to play out in practice.

Beyond a few tidbits, the main keynote is largely unknown. Do we really have any clue what kinds of developments Google might show off in its popular tentpole applications like YouTube, Google Maps, or Google Photos? Do we really know if there’s going to be any substantial Stadia news? Do we know if Fuchsia will finally get official recognition? Nope. Does that mean these things just… aren’t happening this year? Maybe! But it also seems likely that there are some surprises in store.

Google Duplex comes to mind. Last year, it was said that even most Google employees were completely unaware that Sundar Pichai was planning to show the artificial intelligence-based calling system on stage during the I/O 2018 keynote. I’d posit we’ll see similarly delightful and surprising things on stage this morning. Google loves to show skunkworksy but jaw-dropping “whoa!” features that won’t launch for months at I/O, and as of now, we don’t know what they are.

Stay locked to 9to5Google as we watch them unfold.

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About the Author

Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.