There are several reasons why anything Google announces is news. Given the sheer dominance and clout it commands in the technology space, it is difficult to ignore any message received from Googleplex. Add Android, Maps, Chrome and the bouquet of tools by Google, and you cannot help but sit back and pay attention.
A few years ago, at Google I/O 2012, there was a jaw dropping, pushing-you-out-of-your-seat kind of a demo. It could beat any Hollywood thriller for the sheer stunt that was pulled off. Complete with a live skydive out of a plane, on to the roof of the Moscone centre, rappelling to the ground, on to bikes to the stage at Moscone where Sergey Brin was onstage to demo a true invention which was making sci-fi a reality. You can watch this exciting demo here.
Yes, it’s Google I/O 2015, and we’re stuck at 2012. Thanks to the benchmark set by Google. As someone who has followed the developer space for quite a while, we must add, we deeply appreciate the contribution Google has made in terms of tools, languages and support for the open web and software development ecosystem. Having said that, the expectations of innovation are undeniably high.
So when we latched on to the mandatory Google I/O chatter this year, we were a bit underwhelmed. Volume control was an announcement. Like really? Sounds more like an update. We don’t intend to be a naysayer here. Is that a major announcement? We couldn’t say the same about Apple, because then we’d probably have to think whether we’re setting the volume the right way, or our ears functioning properly. Google gives users the freedom, and is associated with the freedom to choose, hence the surprise about volume controls being so significant. May be it is, and we’re just not seeing it through. But till then it seems like it could have just been a minor OTA. Sure, to those who love Google and their work with Android, we share the passion. It’s a brilliant product. If it weren’t it’d not be among the two mobile operating systems to dominate the globe.
Android Auto We were expecting a lot around automobiles. It’s been a zone that has been attracting a lot of attention in the recent wave of interest around Internet of Things. Nonetheless, a mention at least. Increasing and exciting partnerships, a driverless SDK or something similar is what we’d have loved to see. We’d stay content with the 35 brand partnerships that have been announced for now.
We wonder if the Google Car would ever become a practical reality for consumers, or would stay put within the Googleplex neighbourhood? Especially considering automotive companies such as the Nissan-Renault alliance working on autonomous drive vehicles with the target of launching one for consumers by 2020. What’s the roadmap ahead when it comes to Auto? Does QNX-powered Apple CarPlay have more or less in store, and effectively determine what Google’s way forward is going to be? Was it just supposed to be Google Maps and Hangouts on a new screen size? An Android phone with an effective Voice Assistant would accomplish the same tasks.
Android Wear A passing reference to Android Wear. Especially given that Apple Watch has picked on really well. Bringing on new partners for Android Wear ought to have been the sought after announcement. But instead a massive ‘4000 apps’ was more important. On the sidelines of the Google I/O event, Lenovo seemed to have a more stylish hardware announcement with the Magic View smartwatch sporting an innovative ‘Virtual Interactive Design’.
Lenovo Magic View smartwatch with a unique Virtual Interactive Display. Image: gagadget.com
What we now seem to have though, is preference. Those who prefer square dials could opt for Apple Watch and then transition to iOS. Those who love round dials could opt for the Moto 360 et al. and use Android. That’s pretty much what the wearable space has come down to, rather than emerging as a new philosophy of extending the user’s access to useful information.
To Google’s credit, one must add, the emphasis on ‘polish’ and stability is much needed givenAndroid’s history. Effectively it does become important for the developer community in the Android ecosystem to focus on more optimised ways of garbage collection and clean up so your Android device doesn’t lag a few months after you begin using it. Given the fragmentation within the Android base, a focus on performance and stability is the much needed direction Google needs to focus on. We’re still hopeful of seeing more hardware and device based announcements, for that’s where the fun lies! In closing, it seems like a few others also seem to have expected more from Google I/O 2015, as mentioned in this Quora discussion that began immediately after the Google I/O keynote.