Google hey-ho! We came away impressed

Lots of really good stuff at Google’s I/O conference.  I’m sure we’ll be delving into Android L and other announcements in more detail in the coming days, but today I’m shooting from the hip and unpacking what caught my attention.

If you haven’t watched it already, see the gargantuan 3 hour keynote here:

My most immediate reaction is “Wow.”  Google is killing it.  Android extends its lead over iOS and Microsoft is way behind in the rear view mirror.

Material Design

Looks awesome.  A big leap above the current Android design language, which is showing its age and a big reason why I prefer HTC’s Sense 6 over stock Android.  The best part is Google made it easy for developers to take advantage of all the new aesthetics and animations, even for web, so I expect everything to look pretty in short order.

Hey, looks matter.

Search

Google continues the process of breaking down walls between search and apps.  Now they are making available to all apps the ability for users to click on a link from search and see the result on the app.

If you’ve viewed a particular piece of content on an app before — let’s say a restaurant review on feecha — and then weeks later Google that restaurant, Google will include that story you saw on feecha in the search results.  In an age where you might have a hundred apps on your phone and you can’t remember what half of them do, this is a good way for users to rediscover apps.

While this is positive for developers, it’s even better for Google who’d love to index app content to Search.

Smarter Notifications

I wrote before how notifications will be the next battleground for content apps — users will increasingly access apps via notifications that interest them.

In that article, I compare a phone’s notifications list to Facebook’s news feed, and wonder how the OS will help manage the incoming onslaught of notifications.

It seems that Android L will be smarter about what notifications to show based on algorithms that predict a user’s interest.  If this sounds familiar, yes that’s exactly what Facebook does for its news feed.

This is bad news for those who try to spam users with notifications, or those who push notifications that add little value (e.g. pleas to open the app again).  But it’s great news for apps that commit to sending targeted, relevant messages.  Like feecha.  🙂

Android Cast

Apple should implement a Chromecast styled device plus controller for Apple TV to do gaming in the living room.  The phone does the hard work while media is displayed on TV.

Google appears to be moving in that direction.  Chromecast now has the ability to mirror your Android phone to your TV (only certain phones support the standard).

This is the way to go if you want to bring mobile games to the living room TV.

Playing games via Android TV on set-top boxes don’t make as much sense.  To keep costs low, hardware in these set-top boxes won’t be very good; which means complex mobile games like Asphalt 8 will perform poorly.   That’s compounded by the fact that update cycles for a set-top box is many years longer than a smartphone.

No, the real potential for TV gaming is to cast from your powerful, modern Android phone (or tablet).

Android Apps on Chromebooks

At first you think, whoa, now Chromebooks can access Android’s huge library of apps!  How cool is Flipboard on Chromebook?

And then you catch yourself and realize, heck, that’s what any Android device already does; and it has Chrome too.

I just don’t get this device.  An Android latop is superior to a Chromebook in every use case, except perhaps security.

Android Wear

Yes!  Android Wear watches look like a material leap above existing smartwatches, as much as I like my Pebble.

I’ll write more about this in a future post, but word is among the three watches announced, the Moto 360 is the one you want.  It’s rumored to cost $250 and will be available sometime in the summer.

The Samsung and LG watches are available for pre-order today.

Android Auto

Nothing specific to comment about the product — the bigger question is to what degree these ecosystems will play nice with others.  Can I carry an iPhone, do work on a Windows computer and still enjoy Android Auto in the car?

It’s an interesting strategic question.  The cost of switching smartphones is relatively low ($200), so the cost of committing to an OS ecosystem is also low.  Tablet and computers are higher commitment because they cost more ($200 to $2,000).  But a car is tens of thousands of dollars; what if your choice of car brand informs which ecosystem you must commit to?  What if Google decides that the only way to take advantage of Android Auto in your Maserati is to have an Android phone?

Here’s the full list of companies supporting Android Auto:

  • Alpine
  • Bentley
  • Clarion
  • CloudCar
  • Delphi
  • FIAT Chrysler
  • Freescale
  • FUJITSU TEN
  • HARMAN
  • Infiniti
  • JVCKENWOOD
  • LG
  • Maserati
  • Mazda
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan
  • Panasonic
  • Parrot
  • Pioneer
  • Renault
  • Renesas
  • SEAT
  • Škoda
  • Subaru
  • Suzuki
  • Symphony Teleca
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

If Google, Apple or Microsoft can convince the majority of car manufacturers to exclusively adopt their platform, that would be game changing.  For the sake of customers everywhere I hope that won’t be the case; that these systems will work with multiple phone OSes.

At the very least that car brands will offer customers choice in which system we want to install with the car.

Android One

I didn’t quite understand this one at first viewing, but basically it’s intellectual property about how to put together a cheap and good Android phone that Google is making freely available to anyone.  So if you’re an electronics manufacturer in Indonesia and thinking about getting into the smartphone business (good luck, margins are razor thin), Android One would be a ready-made blueprint.  Just follow the directions and press play.

This may not seem exciting to most of us, but it’s Google’s play to win the low end.  They don’t want a repeat of China, where many cheap Android phones don’t have Google play services.

Overall, a strong showing from the green robot.

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