Five things to watch from Google I/O today


A Google employee helps direct people as they register for Google I/O 2014 in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Google is expected to make some big announcements Wednesday, as it revs up its annual developers conference, Google I/O.  This year, Google is expected to continue its focus on improving how its products look, how they feel, and how they interact with each other. And, of course, many are also hoping that Google will follow form and use this stage to show off some new gadgets and projects.

Here are five things to expect out of  Google I/O today:

1.  A watch?:  We may see an Android watch -- or maybe even two or three, depending on if Android partners jump on board today. At any rate, it is likely that we'll hear more about Android Wear, Google's operating system just for wearable devices. The specialized system, announced in March, gives Google the opportunity to jump-start the wearables market by giving manufacturers good software for these new devices. Android Wear makes heavy use of voice controls to keep people from having to squint in order to navigate on ever-smaller screens.

We should also expect to hear more about Glass, Google's smart headset. On Tuesday, Google released a fresh round of updates for Glass just in time for the developers' conference, adding 12 new apps including Shazam, language app Duolingo and a live-streaming app called, well, Livestream. The company also announced that future Glass headsets will have double the amount of RAM of previous models, 2 GB rather than 1 GB, which could seriously up the device's performance.

2.  A set-top box: Google has tried before  to release a media-streaming box -- or a sphere, if you want to get technical -- in 2012, with  the Nexus Q. But the product was both a little ahead of its time and also not quite ready for the consumer market, and Google shelved it after a few months. It was pretty embarrassing for the company, especially after the firm had already failed to make headway with its Google TV smart television platform.

Since then, however, Google's made some headway into the living room with the super-cheap and simple Chromecast. This $35 dongle plugs into your set's HDMI port and lets you stream content from sources such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and YouTube. It's been fairly successful for Google so far, so it makes some sense that the company would be looking to build on that goodwill.

3. New version of Android: I/O is really Android's time to shine. The company's latest version, KitKat, only came out this past September, but Bloomberg Businessweek reported that a brand new system is expected to get a preview at the conference in order to give developers more time to play with it ahead of the holiday season.

As for its name? Google has turned to the sweet shop to inspire the name of every version of Android to date running through the alphabet from A to Z. This year is L's turn, and the general speculation in the tech blog world is that we'll be seeing Android Lollipop, but licorice and Lemonhead have also been floated as possible names.

4. More news about home integration: With the acquisition of smart thermostat company Nest, Google's indicated that it's very interested in the smart home space. Nest itself announced earlier this week that it is opening up its development platform and partnering with companies such as Mercedes, Jawbone and Whirlpool. That means that someone driving home in their Mercedes, for example, can have the car let Nest know that it's time to turn the heat up again in the house.

Now's a good time for Google to amp up its efforts in this space if it wants to be a leader -- especially considering that smart home integration was cited as a big focus for Apple out of its own developers' conference earlier this month.

5. Few clues about the future of the Nexus line: And what of Google's hardware line of phones and tablets? Google's been using the Nexus line to show off the purest form of Android -- stripped of the custom layouts and extra bells and whistles that other manufacturers add to it -- to really showcase that Android, while open, is a Google product.

Since Google jettisoned Motorola Mobility, there's been a lot of question about the fate of its own hardware line, and I/O seems like just the place to clear up those questions. But reports indicate that we won't be hearing much from Google on that front just yet. According to Re/Code, Google is planning to release a new Nexus tablet, but is likely to opt for a fall release date rather than announcing it at the conference, as usual.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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