By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated June 26, 2014.
On Day 1 of the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco, the tech giant announced so many new things, one hopes they have saved something for Day 2. Announcements at the event, which runs June 25-26, included a do-it-yourself basic virtual reality app, a new version of the Android operating system, plus Android Auto and Android TV.
The first day was "quite a big deal," said Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC.
The biggest takeaway, he told us, was "the huge expansion of Android to smart watches, TV, autos, and a whole bunch of areas outside the smartphone." As the Internet of Things emerges, Hilwa said, a lot of the Things "will be tethered to the smartphone, like the smart home or autos."
Next-Gen Android OS
The newest Android OS, which is being released in a developer preview, only has a letter to distinguish it for now, and that letter is L. Most observers are expecting the eventual name to be Lollipop, given Google's propensity for naming its OS versions after sweets. At the moment, the big calling card for L is that it will include a slick new interface built with the company's new Material Design language.
AndroidOne is the company's attempt to meet the competition among low-end smartphones in emerging markets. It is a group of hardware reference designs that is intended to boost manufacturers' ability to offer Android phones priced under $100, where Nokia/Microsoft, Ubuntu and Firefox OS have also set their sights. Three India-based providers have already signed on.
Cardboard Virtual Reality
The virtual reality app, Cardboard, is described by the company as "a no-frills enclosure that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset." The app is accompanied by an open software toolkit, and a VR viewer can be built from such everyday items as cardboard, basic lenses, magnets, velcro and one rubber band.
Android TV, a successor to Google TV, will make voice-controlled Android-based apps and games available on selected set-top boxes and smart TVs. The Chromecast dongle, which allows content from mobile devices to be shown on HD TVs, will get some upgrades, including the ability to Chromecast even when the mobile device that is the source is not on the same Wi-Fi network as the TV.
Android Auto will put Google more firmly in the car software category where Apple, Nokia, Microsoft and others have been racing to establish their footholds. It allows Android owners to connect their mobile devices to the car's dashboard, and Google said more than two-dozen car brands are on board.
As a counter to Apple's recently announced HealthKit platform, Google Fit will similarly allow users to see all their sensor-collected health and fitness data in one location, and it will be integrated into apps and devices from Adidas, Nike and others.
Several smart watches running the Android Wear OS were shown Wednesday at I/O, including the LG-G Watch and Motorola's Moto watch. The Wear OS itself was announced in March, and a new phone from Samsung, called Gear Live, will also use Wear.
Chromebooks will soon be able to run Android apps, and Google is releasing a Cloud Monitoring service based in part on the tech it acquired when it bought cloud monitoring provider Stackdriver in May. The company also announced a new service, Cloud Dataflow, that can run big-data jobs batch-style, and it said it has bought an app testing service, Appurify.