Google I/O! It’s a developer-oriented conference, but it creates a lot of public buzz. Haven’t watched the live streams? Want to avoid digging through reams of analysis just to get the gist? Then let’s get going; 435 words to go.
Android: Jelly Bean and Project Butter: Without admitting previous versions were slow, Google emphasized Android 4.1’s silky smoothness. Also in Android 4.1: automatic icon/widget re-arrangements, swipe-based shortcuts (“fling” apps up to remove), much better voice dictation, a predictive keyboard (like SwiftKey and Swype), accessibility improvements, and much better camera controls (with more swipe-style gestures). And a whole bunch of notification improvments: email previews, call missed messages back, interact with apps with two-finger “swipe downs”).
Nexus 7: Flagship 4.1 tablet is $199, the shape and rough size of Kindle Fire, but notably lighter. Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth, but no 3G, no camera on back. It’s a very, very nice device, coming from a guy who’s played with a lot of Androids. Responsive, clever, powerful, increasing range of good tablet apps, and apparently great for games.
Google Now: It’s not a response to Siri, it’s an attempted bypassing. See it in action. Search Google, voice or otherwise, because it knows you and what you really want: traffic times on your commute, upcoming appointments, flight delays, nearby food you’d like, and, yes, Siri-like answers to data questions.
Nexus Q: It’s beautiful, intriguing, weird, probably not profitable living room streaming device. It streams only Google Play Store content (or uploaded music), controlled by another Android (or parties full of them). It seems music-oriented, has lots of audio output options, but it’s $299, and requires a total Play Store allegiance.
Google Glass: Subject of a crazy-exciting keynote demonstration, then quietly tucked into the future again. Developers can pre-order for $1,500 and receive in early 2013. I got to try Glass glasses on. They’re light, ambient, fairly obvious, and intriguing.
There’s one day left at I/O, but no keynote tomorrow. Attendees picked up really nice freebies, and are, Google hopes, developing across many platforms. There are free Sour Patch Kids, just never enough.