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Google I/O: what to expect


Google Glass

Google Glass

Google Glass

The Google I/O developer conference kicks off in San Francisco this week and – like Apple's WWDC – it promises to be one of the most popular developer events of the year.

Wearable technology is likely to be a major focus of the conference, with the expected launch of Android Wear – Google's operating system for wearable devices – along with a host of smartwatches and other devices from partners such as HTC, LG and Asus.

Google Glass is also expected to feature at the event, following the announcement of new partners for Google's Glass at Work programme earlier this month, which aims to encourage developers to create Glass apps for specific industry sectors – from medical and media to sports and entertainment.

A new version of the Android operating system for smartphones and tablets is due to appear, with various performance improvements and support for 64-bit processors, opening Android up to more powerful devices in the future. Rumours also suggest a modified interface with flatter, more minimalist icons.

Meanwhile, Forbes magazine reported earlier this month that Google is gearing up to launch a new health service called Google Fit, which will aggregate data from health-related apps and popular fitness trackers, such as the FitBit, Jawbone Up and Nike Fuelband, helping users to get a holistic picture of their health.

Another theme of the conference is likely to be the connected home, following the acquisition of Nest Labs, maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, earlier this year, and video-surveillance startup Dropcam, announced today. Google is expected to reveal more details about how these devices will integrate together in the smart home of the future.

Google could also unveil a long-rumoured version of Android for the living froom, called Android TV, which would compete with Apple TV and serve as a hub for media content, such as Netflix and Spotify, and video games.

Google's self-driving cars are also likely to make an appearance at Google I/O, following the annoucement last month that the cars could be on the road within a year. The company may also show off its progress in developing an in-car entertainment system, based on Android.

At a stretch, Google may offer glimpses into what it is doing in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence, following its acquisition of seven robotics companies last year, and its efforts to bring internet connectivity to hard-to-reach parts of the world using low-altitude satellites. However, these are unlikely to feature prominently.

“I expect a frenetic pace of new announcements across a number of market segments – mobile, cloud infrastructure, wearables, software services, home automation, and a dollop of just over-the-horizon craziness with robots, self-driving cars, and internet enabled satellites,” said Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester.

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“Under it all I expect the message to developers will be this is all linked, and there is an end-to-end vision of how apps and software come together with the phone, the cloud, and the physical world around us. It’s our ecosystem you want to bet on, because it’s larger, extends further, and it’s more open.”

Google I/O 2014 takes place on 25 and 26 of June at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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