Key Takeaways from Google IO 2014

Similar to my Key Takeaways from Apple's WWDC14, here I go into the takeaways from the Google IO this year.

Oh, also have a look at my earlier post from 2011where I had suggested changes to Android and - hey look - they have actually done many of those things !  :D

1. India is a focus area.
I should say developing markets - but with mobile OEMs like Micromax, Karbon and Lava shown in the keynote, the focus definitely seems to be more India centric. I hope they are also eyeing the networks in India which needs to be made faster to really leverage the google capabilities. Considering the other market - China - which is a walled place for Google - I think Google is hedging tis bet on India to take it to the next level in terms of usage.

2. Android One. 
This seems to be a way to standardize the android fragmentation issue. With a minimum set of features that Google deems necessary it can get the low cost OEMs on board. For the OEMs they will make the hardware as per Google's specs, and for Google, it will reduce the fragmentation. ( see pt 5 in )

3. Wearables.
The other big announcement was wearables. For now this means smart watches. We already have had Samsung's Galaxy Gear out in the market for sometime - and this takes that concept further by having SDKs available for developers to use in their own apps. Essentially now you will have a watch which will sync notifications and other apps on your watch.
Google is coming out with a LG and a Samsung watch now ( around 15k INR) and a Moto watch a bit later ( which I suspect will be cheaper). But with a best case battery life of just 1 day I don't recommend it except for the nerdy showoff factor.

4. Return of the Dumb Terminals. 
Well, it was covered under different headings like TV and Automotive, but I feel that they are the same thing. You have a display terminal which really does not do much. It has a basic OS running. All apps will reside in your phone. When you connect your phone with the terminal, it will run the apps for that terminal on it. So, if the terminal is a TV, it will run the apps for the TV. If the terminal is a car terminal - it will run the stuff needed for cars. Etc.
I think it is an elegant system for making the terminals simpler and keeping all the complexity on the phone. This way, the TV/Car manufacturer needs to just conform to a minimal specs to get the OS running, and the rest is taken care by the phone.
This theme is also being taken to the chrome OS. Now it will be possible to have apps from your phone to run on the laptop via the ChromeOS. So the ChromeOS terminal will run as a dumb terminal to the phone apps. This is quite a nifty feature - i always wanted a way to be able to respond to whatsapp messages via the laptop. It also goes a step beyond what apple is doing with iOS 8 where they integrated the sms so that you can answer from your mac. However, I havent seen anything like the feature of calling from your mac as yet.

5. Awareness
I have seen this umpteen times where we talk about machines which enable another machine to do something by its proximity. A regular example I see is that having the phone close to your computer will get it to unlock the computer. Till now, I have seen only concept videos - this is the first time I have seen a working demo. Its great, but also i wonder if it is something which may lead to abuse. All you now need is a person's watch to unlock his phone/computer. Have to wait and see what safeguards are there.
Another part of this awareness is that notifications now get on your other devices. So, if you have a phone and are wearing the watch ( see pt 3) , you get the notificaitons on your devices. This is not as seamless as the continuity as apple demoed, but similar.

5. UX improvements
As Apple tries to catch up to Google in terms of features and developer friendliness, Google is trying to catch up with Apple in terms of usability. The current trend is to make everything look consistent by having a guideline for the community of developers and designers. To make things feel more dynamic, google has come up with a framework of displaying windows which, in addition to the x and y dimensions, also adds a depth ( or z axis ). This means that a program can use an element it has, add a z axis value and it will seem to popup on the top. They call this framework "Material". I wish they had used a sexier name -- I find it as offensive as the term 'resources' are used for people in companies. But I guess its just me.

Now you would be wondering why I haven't talked about Android 5.0. Thats because Android 5.0 is not one thing. It is all the things I just talked about above.

It is quite possible that I may have missed some other things from the stupor inducing keynote - if so, please leave it in the comments below and I will incorporate them here.

I am also quite disappointed that Larry Page did not make an appearance this time. He was the show stealer from last year.

Thoughts on Wearables Battery

Of late there has been a lot of talk about wearables. Small devices which are powerful enough to communicate to others. Its part of the bigger "Internet of Everything". Nike came out with their run measuring devices and Pebble came out with their smartwatch, followed by Samsung with their Galaxy Gear.

The focus off late seems to have shifted to watches with the hype building up for an imminent launch of a watch from Apple and other companies making a preemptive strike by launching their watches first.

Google has gone all out by developing SDKs for wearables and have 2 watches out for preorder (from LG and Samsung) and another to follow soon ( from Motorola). Impressive tech which syncs seamlessly with your phone ( if you have android 4.3+ running on it).

However, no one is mentioning the Elephant in the Room - the battery life.

Pebble has just 7 days of batter life. That is quite bad for a watch. Usual watches last a year or more on a single cell, and if you have a solar watch or the kinetic watches - they last even longer.
The Google watches last at max a day. A Day! Just that much ? I am fed up of charging my phone every day - though it is still bearable as I can easily put that on the table while charging. However, with a watch - do you think you will be able to keep it on your wrist while charging ?

Another common problem with a 1 day approach is that most people have 2 or more watches. Depending on the mood ( or clothes ) people like to use the watch as an accessory. But with this kind of battery life either you will need to keep using the watch everyday and give up your other watches, or have the foresight to charge it before you plan to wear it.

I think a communicating watch - with other benefits like GPS tracking/health monitoring is an amazing technological advancement, but without a good battery life this thing is just for geeky people to showoff that they are using it.

What do you think - would you like to have a watch which you have to keep charging every day ?

Key takeaways from WWDC14 :

This was a big update. Much more than I had thought. A lot of startups will be killed by this, but it will give rise to a lot many other startups.

1. There is a new programming language named swift ! Wow . I am sure no one ever saw that coming !
2. Cross device handoff between macs and iOS devices. - Continuity
- We have this kind of thing when using gtalk or some other apps, but usually they just update on both the devices. What Apple has been talking about is that the laptop / iphone will sense when they are in proximity and the update will happen there. Add to it, it seems to be an OS level functionality so maybe in the future other apps will be able to make use of it.
3. Metal - they just stripped away a whole layer of GL to Hardware interaction and provide direct access to hardware capabilities, making the iOS devices "As powerful as a console devices" . We think Apple is getting ready to move into the console space. Add an apple TV to the mix and you have this working as a console streaming to the TV in the living room.
4. Health and Home kits - by baking in these APIs into the OS, App developers will be able to use a standarized API interface to apple machines. I think this will be tied into the iPhone launch in sept where it will have more biometric capabilities.
5. Touch ID integration for other APPs. So far the touch Id was used as authentication only for apple specific apps. Now, you will be able to use it for many other apps who start integrating with it. So, yes - lesser number of passwords. Think of it as a 'sign in with facebook' link that you are used to seeing - only you will use finger print sensors to do it.
6. OS X Yosemite - a new update to the OS - which is FREE! That effectively leaves Windows as the only paid OS for consumers in the world. ( Linux - free, Chrome OS - free, Android - Free , iOS - Free, OSX - Free , Windows - Paid).
7. Extensibility plugins in iOS will take apps to a whole new level. You can use an exposed extension of one app in another APP. I am a bit worried about the security aspects here - but apple did mention that they have been thinking of that and are sure it will work well.
8. Notifications got a major overhaul - so the grouse I have with iOS notifications not being as good as Android notifications may go away. They allow you to do much more now than Android does ( e.g. marking emails ) but I am sure Google is not sitting idle and will have an update sooner or later. Unfortunately, most Android phones will not get to see the updates as most manufacturers do not update the OS to the latest one. However, they also tie in notificaitons on the desktop which I have yet to see on any other OS the way apple handles it. All that I get on other OSs is a baloon popup :(
9. Apple finally seems to have figured out iCloud Drive - and this is going to make many services like Dropbox redundant. Though to really use it I think you need a very good bandwidth WiFi connection.

Some people are - as usual - disappointed about no hardware talk - but I think that is to be expected. This was a  World Wide _Developer_ conference. It is all about software. Wait till September for the hardware updates - and since Tim Cook mentioned that this is the 25th WWDC from Apple, I have high expectation of hardware enhancements which will utilize all these software updates that they have brought in.