What I expect to see from Google I/O 2012
Next Wednesday, Google will be holding its annual developer conference to announce what’s new in the world of Google, and respond to the announcements already made by Microsoft and Apple earlier this year. Although both Microsoft and Apple have announced some very impressive stuff in the past few weeks (especially Windows Surface tablets and Windows Phone 8), it is now Google’s turn to see what they can come up with to impress us. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing for sure what we will see next week, but here are just a few of the things that I think Google will announce at this year’s Google I/O.
Google Nexus/ASUS MeMo tablet
This one has been in the works for quite a while, but it seems quite probable that we will finally see the Google Nexus tablet released in partnership with ASUS. In case you’ve forgotten, the tablet is basically going to be the ASUS MeMo, but with the latest stock build of Android. Hardware wise, the tablet will have a 7-inch display, probably running at 1280 x 800; a Tegra 3 quad-core SOC powering the show; cameras; standard connectivity; and a dirt cheap price. In fact, some sources are even reporting that the tablet will cost less than the Kindle Fire’s $199, which would be quite an accomplishment, indeed. However, even if the Google tablet costs more like $250, I still think it will be worth it for a stock, 7-inch, quad-core Android experience.
Android 4.1 Jellybean
Just yesterday, the Google Play Store leaked information that the next version of Android will definitely be called Android 4.1 Jellybean, and even offered a tiny thumbnail of an updated UI. However, these leaks actually concerned the Galaxy Nexus, and not a new Android smartphone, which has led many to believe that the update will in fact be released with the Google tablet mentioned above, and then rolled out to the Galaxy Nexus. So far, all we know is that the UI has been slightly tweaked, but also that this version isn’t going to be a major change. More than likely, it will be a lot like the update from Android 2.2 Froyo to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with an updated UI and a couple of small software features, but mostly backend changes to make the OS work better.
No new smartphone hardware
The fact that the Galaxy Nexus is supposed to be the first device with Android 4.1 leads me to my next prediction: we won’t see any new smartphone hardware out of this conference. It has been rumored that Google is preparing a whole lineup of Nexus devices for the second half of this year, but there is no news on anything to be released this summer. That is probably just as well, because the Galaxy Nexus just came out on Verizon earlier this year, and I just bought a brand new GSM Galaxy Nexus. If by chance Google does announce new hardware, I think it will be released this winter, instead of something that you will be able to buy right away next week.
Part of the reason they may not be releasing any hardware just yet is that Google just recently completed their purchase of Motorola Mobility. No one really knows what they are going to do with their new acquisition (although I’ve expressed my opinions on what I think they should do), although it is possible that they are working with Motorola on a lineup of smartphones for later this year. It is also possible that the Motorola collaboration is something else entirely – perhaps a Chrome-powered webtop, or even a Google TV set top box. Either way, I think we will see something interesting come out of the deal, whether it relates to smartphones or not.
Majel voice assistant
What Siri is to the iPhone, Majel will be to Android – at least in theory, that is. Quite a while ago, I reported on a rumor that Google was working on enhancements, including a Siri-like personality for their already pretty good Voice Actions app, and that it would be released as the Majel voice assistant. Talk quieted down for quite a while, but after Apple announced their Siri improvements at WWDC, rumors started to heat up again that Google would be bringing out their digital assistant at Google I/O. We know very little about the project at this point, other than that it exists, but based on the quality of Google’s existing voice recognition software, I would expect whatever improvement they come out with to be quite good.
This is actually my personal favorite rumor, just because it is a bit outlandish and nerdy but still very cool. Google’s Project Glass is basically a product that functions as a heads up display for the wearer, through a small piece of glass in front of the eye. It looks quite dorky, but this video from Google shows how the product might be used. Obviously, Google has confirmed the existence of the project; we just don’t know when they will release it. However, it seems like it would be the perfect way to really make a splash and do something different at this year’s I/O, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more about Project Glass, and perhaps even get a release date.
As far as I can tell, it seems reasonable to expect that we will hear about or see most of the above products at Google I/O, as they have been in the news for quite a while; with the exception of Google Glass, these should be ready to be sold or announced by now. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Google could surprise us with a product or feature no one was expecting, but unlike Apple and Microsoft, they aren’t so much for keeping secrets and having a big reveal. We can speculate all we want, but by this time next week we should have the full picture on what most of Google’s plans are for the next few months, and I can’t wait to see what they have come up with, even if we already have a good idea of what it will be.