Google I/O 2013 Is All About Cleaning Up the Mess and Filling In the Gaps

With Google’s presentations at I/O this year, It’s clear that services are king – hardware is fleeting, last year’s chamfered edges are a distant memory, merely the means to an end. People want to find information and solve problems as rapidly as possible, so it makes sense to remove obstacles. This is Google doing even better what it already does best, cloud services and knowing what people want before they know it. The gradual separation of core Android services from OEM’s into widely-available market APKs is also key, as it’s the smartest way to address hardware fragmentation issues immediately. 

From what I gather, end-user services are boosted by e-book uploads, subscription music services (this is a big deal), G+ visual enhancements including auto photo-processing, a major Maps revamp with PT improvements, greater Wallet integration with GMail, a Game Center, and rolling out more natural and contextual voice search through all products. A simplification of storage between Drive/GMail and Photos to 15GB is also welcomed. 

By far one of the most welcome changes is the integration of fragmented IM services: Talk, Messenger and Hangouts, under one new banner. It does photos, video-conferencing and sync’ed read/unread over multiple devices. I’ve been using it and it works VERY well. The other item of note is the synchronization of App Data as an extra item in Google Services. Presumably this would allow not just apps to be reinstalled on a fresh sync, but data as well – though some apps do have hefty data loads. 

For developers (after all, it IS a developer conference), big improvements in Android developer analytics, better access to the Fused API (which allows efficient locational status of users based on 4 sensors) and Android Studio. For enterprise, there’s Compute Engine, an IAAS offering to go toe-to-toe with AWS, though it’s still limited in what it can offer – but priced accordingly. A strong educational push also doesn’t hurt, in the form of Play Education.

In all, a very substantial set of improvements – it further cements Google’s already class-leading cloud offerings, no matter what hardware, what device, what form factor – information and intelligent context is key. There’s a reason that there was only one hardware announcement, and that was a Galaxy S4 without the Touchwiz, hardly revolutionary. Read: Hardware is unimportant. 

I’m still quite wary of putting too much personal information in, including switching off Google Now and location tracking/web history, but for some it’s reached a point where the tangible benefits outweigh the concerns. There’s also questions of an increasingly closed environment, with the lack of an API or even RSS for G+, closing of GReader, movement away from XMPP for chat. But at least personal data is still (mostly) exportable in standardized formats through the DLF. 

I’d highly recommend watching the quite lengthy keynote for more details: Google I/O 2013: Keynote

Google I/O 2013 Is All About Cleaning Up the Mess and Filling In the Gaps | TIME.com

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