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 http://vibhurishi.blogspot.in/2011/12/making-android-better.html )

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.

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