Business, Software Programs

Google I/O 2013: Less Wild – Announcements Aplenty

To cut things short, Google I/O 2013 simply wasn’t the ground for any new devices. There were no news for the Google Glass, nor did anything relate to the next incarnation of the Android platform. The keynote was an exact opposite of the one a year ago. Yet, there were so many announcements and service upgrades that it is difficult to choose what to begin with.

This year, Google decided to focus on developers "more than ever", but at the same point, that wasn’t entirely prominent during the three hour long presentation. They did not forget about their services for the masses, even though there was no hardware or major platform surprises of any sort. The keynote started with the number bragging all over the place ? and there was a good reason to do it: Google?s mobile platform solution, Android, will soon reach the billion devices milestone, and the company claims that there are over 900 million activated devices at this moment. Compared with the past two years, it is painfully easy to notice the explosive trend:

Android Growth
Android has more than 900 million activations at this moment

Google Play store has recently crossed the 48 billion app downloads, and the Chrome browser (without mobile/PC breakdown) is being actively used by over 750 million users each month. Additionally, Google Maps are used in one way or another (data) on over a million of web sites. Google Maps themselves have received a major upgrade ? in both features and user experience overall. Applications for both major mobile platforms (iOS & Android) have been updated with the new experience and map data, and the web variant of the Maps is now all vector. One of the new features demoed was the Explorer, a Google version of the Bing Local Scout service, and the company claims that the ?maps get better the more we use it.? The new version is coming sometime this summer, but it should gradually become available to those interested via invites. For now, take a look at the short video:

Google Chrome web browser is getting the proper touch support, as well as the speed updates. The company is particularly happy with how their browsing solution is coming along in terms of performance, claiming that the JavaScript performance is 24% higher than last year on desktop and 57% higher than last year on mobile:

Chrome JavaScript
Performance improvements in both Mobile and Desktop are noticable

Google just wouldn?t be Google if they didn?t use the opportunity to try and push some of their newly developed format ?standards for better web?, and those included the JPEG competitor WebP with 31% reduction in file size while retaining the same quality, and their VP9 that got compared with H.264 for video:

JPEG vs WebP
31% reduction in file size whilst retaining the same image quality

VP9 vs H.264
File size is important for video streaming, and Google developed their VP9 with that in mind

Google+, Google?s social networking solution has also received 41 new features and upgrades in total. It has been completely (and gorgeously if we can add) redesigned with the card interface that slightly reminds of the Pinterest service, but that is not all:

New Google+
New Google+ interface

Google+ can automatically place hashtags on the content the user puts on the network, and it can go as far as to analyze the visual content on the photos and ?guess? the hashtag accordingly. It is, in a way, downright creepy. Further emphasis was put on photos as well, with the Google+ being able to search through all of the photos user has, and automatically choose the best ones (discarding the bad ones and copies), create animated images, or leave the user to activate the number of enhancements (skin softening, HDR, etc.). The company clearly demonstrated that their purchase of the Nik Software last September was worthwhile, and they have clearly surpassed the Facebook – at least when it comes to the throne of the ?social photography?.

Google Search got much better in the Chrome. With the latest version of the Google Search, it is now possible to perform the search without even clicking the button, as it is enough to say ?OK Google? and fire away with questions. Yes, Google always listens when it can, closely following the aforementioned ?creepy? line. On a serious side note, answers are derived from the Google?s Knowledge Graph, similarly as to what is going on with the Google Now service on the mobile phones and tablets, but they are ?personalized? and not shown in cards interface. If connected to the Gmail account, the voice search will be able to provide users with additional personal info, send e-mail messages, perform localized searches and show photos, for instance. Google Now also got upgraded with six new cards: Reminders, Public Transit, Music Albums, TV Shows, Books and Video Games. All of these new features should be coming ?soon?.

Google Now Cards

New cards include Reminders and Public Transit options as well

The company also announced their own music subscription service named Google Play Music All Access, clearly targeting the users of Spotify, Pandora and alike. The service should work on iOS and Android devices only (via appropriate application), and it is priced at $9.99 a month.

Curiously, while we haven?t seen the new Nexus device of any kind (be it Motorola or LG), Google somehow felt ?compelled? to take the Samsung?s Galaxy IV flagship, rip the (awful) Touch Wiz interface off of it and sell it as the Nexus experience device in the Google store, for $649. The problem with this device is that it isn’t much better than a Nexus 4 in terms of functionality and performance, yet it costs more than two Nexus 4’s…

More details on all of these announcements are sure to follow, meanwhile feel free to take a peek at the 3+ hour video of the keynote for much more information after the break: