48 Hours of Google I/O 2012 in 480 Words

Don't have time to read through all the news, reactions, and releases from Google I/O? Here's the really brief version.

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.

  • Chrome on iOS: Despite the increasing Apple/Google tension, Chrome is in the App Store. It’s intentionally made slower, but also magically synchronous with desktop/Android Chrome.

  • Drive goes offline, also on iOS: Both are quite handy. One was one of my fantasy picks!

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.

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