Thanks to the kind people at Fish Burners and with breakfast (or late dinner) supplied by Google, members of the GDG (Google Developers Group) Sydney got to watch the Google IO2012 Android Keynote live on the big screen.
The main points of the Keynote was some new features in the new release of the Android OS (codename Jellybean, or Android 4.1), the eagerly awaited Nexus Tablet (called the Nexus 7), the media streaming device Nexus Q and a demo and discussion of the Google Glass, the wearable computing device.
First off the rank was updates for Jellybean which is being rolled out to developers today, and should be upgraded on compatible devices in July (something that Google is now taking control of, so people no longer have to wait for the carriers to update the OS on devices, something they where generally slack at).
First improvement is Project Butter (I blame Steve Jobs for the smooth as butter meme). Home screen rendering, applications and widgets will get a speed boost in Jellybean. Things like wrapping icons around a widget, scaling widget real estate on the home screen and the ability to flick unwanted apps and widgets (as well as notifications, which also get some user experience tweaks).
A new tool for developers is also shipping, called systrace. This program will tap into the Linux Kernel of android and will give better diagnostic data for both input and output. And voice recognition, voice control and voice response can now be used offline (that is not requiring network access to work). Offline storage has also been extended to Google Maps, where one city can be downloaded onto your device.
The big news with Android 4.1 is the amount of data processing of searches and application use that Google will use to make results more relevant. Location data collected by your phone will be added to the search algorithm, as well as used to provide real time data on road conditions, trip planning and possible diversions like restaurants or entertainment suggested to you based on prior searches. This can also be seen in airline information based o prior searches. Many will see this as providing better searches and results, but many will be spooked by the data collection and privacy implications on the amount of data being mined by Android for Google.
The second section of the presentation was the Nexus 7 device. A 7″ tablet with a quad core Tegra 3 chip, 16 graphic cores and standard with Android 4.1, and manufactured by ASUS.
As a device, it is not so much aimed at the iPad as with Amazon Kindle Fire. The Android Play store is very much front and centre of the device, with video, magazines, books, and the selling point that all the content is cloud based. The device will be available in Australia with a pice of $249 for the 8gb version.
With an 800×600 screen and huge graphic capacity (and the graphic improvements with Jellybean), the Nexus 7 may become the games machine that finally kills the portable Playstation and Nintendo devices. Highly detailed graphics and fast rendering mean that games unheard of on the mobile space (like immersive MMO) can now be played on a mobile device. Even the Retina display of the new iPad does not compete, due to the graphic processing power of the Nexus 7.
The supprise for me was the next item, the Nexus Q. A spherical desktop / hoe media device, it is Android with the home entertainment turned to 11. With Sonos like capabilities, it can play media in different rooms, and the Nexus 7 can be used as a playlist organiser (with built in sharing and controlling functions to allow others to share in the media experience. Again, the Q will be available soon in Australia at about US$300 (based on the difference between the US and Aus price for the Nexus 7, expect it to cost between A$350-400. The consensus from the GDG crowd is that rather competing with the Sonos (which has comparable pricing) it needs to compete with the iTV and Airport Express, which is far cheeper (but with less features than both Sonos and Nexus Q).
Next on show was Google Glass. After Sergey Brin introduced it with a stunt filled extravaganza, the wearable device was revealed to still in the prototype stage. Only US developers at IO could pre-order the device, due to Brin advising of regulatory issues with other nations at this time. The fact that the Google Glass streamed a hangout of 4 skydivers jumping from a blimp, to the roof of the Muskone Centre, to the stage shows the potential of the device. The price has been reported to be US$1500 by CNN, so it is not quite priced for consumers as of this time.
The last thing was some Google Plus announcements. Native iPad and Android Tablet clients are coming (Android tablet version released today). New integration with Google Calendar and using a new function called events allow people to invite, collate images and videos and store them on a page for viewing after the event was demoed.
The feeling from the Keynote? There is some evolutionary changes rather than revolutionary changes coming to Android, however, Google will collect even more data of your behaviour and movement in the name of refining personal search (and of cause customer focused ads). The Nexus 7 is a Kindle and Handheld Gaming competitor, the Nexus Q is first generation, and may clash with the Google TV initiative (which was not mentioned this keynote) and may be either wrongly priced or aimed at the wrong competition. It is clear that Google is bringing better focus to the Android marketplace with its Nexus brand, and it will be interesting how OEM manufacturers compete with the Nexus 7. The Nexus Q not only has to compete with the iOS devices, but also cheap Android set top boxes and media plug in devices that are now becoming available. However it is stylish and has strong integration with the Nexus 7, so that may work to it’s benifit. A good keynote from Google.