Google I/O: What to expect from this year’s show


A Google homepage is displayed on a Motorola Droid phone in Washington August 15, 2011. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Google’s preparing for its big developer conference, Google I/O this week, and buzz is building about what the company may have to reveal.

In the past, I/O has served as the launch pad for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, the stage for Google’s skydiving demonstration of Google Glass, and has also traditionally been the place where Google unveils its new versions of Android.

But Android head Sundar Pichai tempered some expectations Monday in an interview with Wired in which he said that Google would have a lighter focus on new hardware and software at this year’s conference, and instead focus on what the company is doing for its developers on both of its development platforms, Android and Chrome.

“It’s going to be different,” Pichai said in his interview with Wired. “It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system.”

That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from suggesting, however, that there may be some new hardware for Google fans to look for at the conference. TechCrunch noted that it’s possible that Google will introduce more incremental upgrades for its Nexus 4 phone and Nexus tablets even if there aren’t completely new products.

It’s a good bet that Google will also talk, at length, about its Google Glass headset, which has already started making appearances on the heads of early testers and developers around the country. It’s likely that Google will be featuring novel and useful ways these beta users have devised for using its head-mounted computer.

Google has already released some instructions and demonstrations on how people can use Glass in their daily lives, showing off how the device gives users easy access to the weather, flight information, events on their calendar and things such as alerts, messages and photos through a hookup with their phones.

But as the company moves closer toward an anticipated consumer launch — rumors suggest that could come in the last quarter of 2013 — Google’s going to be increasingly under the gun to show how its device’s appeal extends beyond the most devoted technophiles.

In the software space, there’s not much chatter that Google will release a full-blown new version of its mobile operating system, but may introduce a substantial upgrade to its current Jelly Bean system. According to The Verge, this could include features that will improve the battery life, as well as technology to improve the visual and graphic effects of its devices.

The gaming press has also been abuzz with speculation over a report from the blog Android Police, which appeared to show a new video gaming hub on Google’s Play store called “Play Games.” The blog reported that Play Games will have features similar to the Game Center in iOS such as the ability to save games in the cloud, collect in-game achievements and view game-wide leaderboards.

Related stories:

Google Glass could spur wearable tech boom

Google Fiber headed to Provo, Utah

Google’s Android lead steps down

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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