Google looks to cars and wearables

Google want to become an ever bigger part of your life, according to reports from the Google I/O software developers' conference held in San Francisco this week. The company's latest initiatives center around Android with applications in wearable computers and automobiles.

“This is one of the most comprehensive releases we have done,” Sundar Pichai, chief of Google’s Android division, told 6,000 developers, as reported by Brian X. Chen in the New York Times. Chen writes that Google must rally app developers as it competes with rivals like Apple and Samsung. He quotes Jan Dawson, an independent telecom analyst for Jackdaw Research, as saying, “What’s striking is the way each of these three major companies—Google, Microsoft and Apple—are seeking to participate across four key domains: the home, the car, the body, and the mobile world at large.”

Google's efforts include the tentatively named Android L will likely include antitheft features, including a kill switch. Chen writes that Android L will offer “more vibrant colors and added effects like shadows and animations. For example, when a user taps the screen, a small water ripple appears on the tapped area.” (Ok, I can do without that last one—any processing cycles or femtojoules on energy spend on ripples is wasted, but never mind.) Google is also continuing to develop Android Wear for smart watches and Android TV, which lets users speak into a smart watch to search for programs.

Chen reports that Android Auto facilitates access to maps, phone contacts, and playlists while allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road. And finally, the company said it is looking to expand into business, offering corporate mail along with storage and videoconferencing.

In addition, Robert Briel at Broadband TV News reports, “Google is partnering with TP Vision (Philips), Sharp, Sony, Razer, and Asus to to build Android TV into TV sets, set-top boxes, and game consoles.”

Briel adds that Google also added a new feature called Backdrop to Chromecast. Backdrop can run feeds of photos, news, weather, or art while people are not using a TV. The company said Chromecast is in the top five of electronic devices sold on Amazon.

Kevin Roose writing in New York magazine had this to say: “The problem with making statements about Google's corporate focus is that Google is so damned big. It's trying, almost literally, to do everything all at once, and it almost never focuses on one thing to the exclusion of anything else. But judging from [Wednesday's] I/O keynote, and conversations I had with company insiders at the event, it's clear that Google sees Android as the biggest part of its near-term future.”

Roose cited in particular Android One, which could help device makers offer less than $100 smartphones for the developing world. Roose writes, “We may never see these devices in the U.S.—and, as such, you probably won't hear much about them in the tech press—but they're as important to Google's future as any of the flashier, more expensive things the company is doing.”

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