by May 19, 2013 0 comments

Key takeaways:

  • Over 900 M activations of Android devices in 2013
  • Over 48 billion app installs from Google Play so far, out of which 2.5 billion+ app installs were in the last month alone
  • More money was paid out to Android developers in 4 months of 2013 compared to all of last year
  • Revenue per user increased more than 2.5x globally, compared to a year ago
  • 3 new Location APIs were announced, improvements made to existing Maps API for Android
  • Cross-platform Google+ Sign-in for Google Play announced. E.g. Sign-in to a website using Google+ on your PC, get it’s app automatically on your Android device
  • Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) is now a part of Google Play services, 3 new features were launched in a major upgrade. E g. Dismiss a notification from one Android device and it gets dismissed from your other devices too
  • 60% of the top 100 apps in the Google Play Store make use of the GCM service
  • 200,000+ GCM messages are sent every second
  • The average server-to-server latency in GCM is down 30% from a year ago, to 60 ms
  • New API built for game developers: Google Play game services
  • New developer tool `Android Studio’ announced, based on the community edition of IntelliJ
  • 5 new features in Google Play Developer Console announced
  • Google Play Music All Access: Subscription-based music service announced
  • Chrome has over 750 million active users
  • Chromebook was listed as the number 1 product in `Laptops’ category on Amazon for 190 consecutive days
  • 24% faster Javascript rendering by Chrome on the PC and 57% faster by Chrome on the mobile compared to last year
  • Youtube will support VP9 videos later this year
  • Create your own cross-platform tags reusable by different devices for use in web applications
  • Over 25 M users of Google Apps in over 200 countries
  • Google Play for Education announced
  • 41 new features across 3 major areas in Google+
  • Improvements to Google Search in 3 areas: answer, converse and anticipate
  • Over a million non-Google websites use Google Maps in their own website, resulting in more traffic (1 billion+ users each month) for Google Maps than through Google’s own properties

At the sixth annual Google I/O (2013), Google’s senior vice president Vic Gundotra began by thanking and welcoming the 6000 attendees present in person, 40k+ attendees from about 440 viewing parties across 90 countries worldwide and the 1 M+ visitors viewing the keynote live over YouTube.

Gundotra stressed on the hard work put into Google’s platform and services, while also maintaining that it’s really not about them but about developers, who make the platform and services come alive by providing some of the most compelling experiences with lots of enthusiasm and support. Gundotra also made an effort to thank developers for the same.

Next on stage was Sundar Pichai, SVP, Android, Chrome and Apps. Pichai extended a welcome to the audience and gave a background about how the revolution in personal computing (of multiple personal gadgets and form factors) is causing a change in our daily lives, compared to the PC revolution that started in the 80s. He also stressed on Android and Chrome as two large and fast-growing platforms that are scalable and the most popular in their respective categories, compared to what they initially started out as a few years ago, given their simple objectives at that time.

Pichai next talked about the explosive rise in the number of Android devices that are getting activated, year-after-year. He also mentioned that since there are over 7 billion people on the planet, there is still a long way to go for Android, considering that the population of those countries where Android’s penetration is less than 10% adds up to over 4.5 billion.

However, it remains to be seen as to how Google addresses infrastructure challenges in such countries under the pretext of making a change in the lives of people. In the Android penetration map shown on screen at the event, countries like Australia, USA, much of western Europe, etc. were not highlighted, meaning that it is the rest of the world which they are now targeting, which is not as developed.

Next on stage was Hugo Barra, VP, Product Management, Android. He talked about the growing apps’ ecosystem and the important contribution of developers in the same. After this, he dug into the details of the much-awaited announcements at Google I/O 2013:

Google Play services:

Key changes compared to last year:

  • Major user experience upgrade in Google Maps Android API, including vector-based maps with support for full 3D movement and rotation.
  • New location API 1: Fused location provider, which, among other things, adds a new location mode that uses less than 1% of battery per hour.
  • New location API 2: Geofencing, which allows setting virtual fences around geographical areas, on which triggers can be set whenever the user enters/leaves those areas. Barra mentioned that up to 100 geofences can be simultaneously active per app.
  • New location API 3: Activity recognition, which allows users to track their physical activities by using a combination of machine learning and accelerometer data in order to determine whether the user is walking/cycling/driving in a power-efficient way, without turning on GPS.
  • Google+ single sign-in for Google Play: Now when you use Google+ as a means to sign-in to a website, you automatically get a download notification for the website’s app on your Android device (and you will be signed in to it when you launch the app).
  • The Google Cloud Messaging service (GCM) is now a part of Google Play services.
  • GCM new feature 1: Support for persistent connections between the app servers and Google. With persistent connections, it is possible to send a large number of messages to many devices quickly. It is to be noted that each of these 3 new features that have been announced are said to be rolling out progressively, developers need to sign-up for the same.
  • GCM new feature 2: Upstream messaging, meaning that it is now possible to send messages from your app to Google’s servers.
  • GCM new feature 3: Synchronized notifications. Using GCM, if you now dismiss a notification on one Android device, it gets dismissed from your other Android devices too.

Google Play game services(meant to be a part of Google Play services):

  • Cloud save: Save user data (such as progress records, game state) across devices. E.g. if a user finishes level 1 of a game using an Android smartphone, he/she can start off with level 2 on his/her Android tablet.
  • Achievements & leaderboards: Achievements are similar to the XBox 360 achievements, in the sense that they act as virtual trophy walls to act as a means of engaging the user. Leaderboards use Google+ circles to connect a user with friends who play the same game in order to encourage `competition’. There are public leaderboards, as well as leaderboards limited to your Google+ circles.
  • Cloud save, achievements and leaderboards will be available for iOS and the web too, allowing for cross-platform game engagement. Dozens of game development studios are said to be working with Google on this.
  • Multiplayer API: Allows users to find new players to challenge, as well as make it easier to invite friends to play with/against.

Developer tools:

Android Studio: Fully-featured IDE. Like Visual Studio 2012, it has dark backgrounds in all of the panes and bars. Has features like in-place resolution of resources such as text strings form resource files, previews of images and colors in the editor margins, live rendering of layout with support for multi-configuration editing (which means now you can see at a glance what the layout will look like on different screen sizes, including support for any custom layouts that are built by you for your app,etc. The same also applies for seeing your app in different locales at a glance). You can now add a backend to GCM for your app from within Android Studio.

Next on stage was Ellie Powers, Product Manager, Google Play, who talked about the changes in distribution and monetization of Android apps.

Google Play developer console:

  • New feature 1: Optimization tips: Helps get more users for your apps by suggesting tasks that need to be done in order to make the app a bit more successful.
  • New feature 2: App translation service for your apps. Strings that need to be translated are provided as input and the output can be downloaded from within the developer console.
  • New feature 3: Usage metrics and referral tracking: In combination with Google Analytics, allows developers to determine which are the most effective referral channels for your app, that lead to views, installs and launches of your app. User engagement metrics from Google Analytics will be shown directly within the developer console.
  • New feature 4: Revenue graphs: New tab in the developer console for tracking app revenue using various parameters.
  • New feature 5: Beta testing and staged roll-outs, allowing access control through Google Groups and Google+

Barra returned on stage to lighten up things and introduced Chris Yerga, Engineering Director, Android. Yerga talked about changes made to the play store, both above and under the hood, that allow for better scaling to different screen sizes and the web, as well as make discovery of applications easier. One such change is introducing a new view that allows users to discover apps that are designed for tablets.

It is to be noted that the apps to be listed here must meet the tablet app design guidelines set by Google, such as using the screen real estate of the tablet effectively.

Google Play Music All Access and Listen Now:

This allows you to explore millions of tracks along with receiving personalized recommendations, leaving the user free to decide what next to play and how.

Devices:

Barra again returned to recap the highlights so far. Then, Barra showed the home screen of his special edition Samsung Galaxy S 4, where he talked about the optimized build of Android 4.2 that runs on the S 4, available directly from Google in the US and containing a host of improvements not available in other S 4 devices.

Chrome:

Next, Pichai returned on stage to shift focus to Chrome. Pichai talked about the growth in the number of Chrome users, the current mobile web scenario, Chrome serving as the foundation for Chrome OS and Google Chromebooks. Pichai showed a demo of Chrome serving HTML 5 content and 3D games across the Chromebook Pixel and a Nexus tablet.

Next on stage was Linus Upson, VP, Engineering, Chrome, who focused on the three goals with Chrome: Speed, Simplicity and Security. In addition to the Javascript performance and compatibility improvements, Upson talked about the new WebP and VP9 image and video formats respectively that lead to reduced data usage on the web, leading to lower power consumption.

Upson next moved on to making mobile shopping easier using the HTML5 autocomplete specifications, which make Chrome save and sync billing information across all of your devices. Next was WebComponents, which allows developers to create their own tags and share them across multiple devices for using in different applications.A group of volunteers also showed a demo of Chrome-based social multiplayer gaming that is enabled by lining up devices in close proximity.

Shifting focus away from Chrome, Pichai moved on to Google Apps, highlighting the penetration of Google Apps. Yerga was invited back on stage to talk about Android in education.

Google Play for Education:

Said to be available this fall, Google Play for Education is meant to deliver high-quality content for education. Developers can begin to submit apps from sometime this summer. Making use of Google Groups,a group of students can instantly receive apps, books and educational videos relevant to them as discovered by teachers. Developers need to visit http://developer.android.com/edu for more information.

Pichai returned on stage and after doing a Malaysian case study for Google Apps and Chromebooks in Malaysian schools, handed over the stage to Vic Gundotra to talk about Google+

Google+

New stream:

  • Multi-column layouts with support for hidden menus, flips, animations, swipes and large media previews.
  • Automatic tagging of content (including photos) in order to find out other related content.

New hangouts:

  • Standalone app for Android devices
  • Conversation histories
  • Animations of people typing and entering/leaving the room

New photos experience:

  • Support for backing up 15 GB of full-resolution photos, in addition to unlimited standard resolution photos
  • Automatic highlighting of best photos to share from an album, based on parameters such as blur, duplicates, exposure, landmarks, people, aesthetics and affinity.
  • Automatic enhancement of photos, including tonal distribution, skin softening, noise reduction, structure, white balancing, vignette, sharpening, red eye removal, etc.
  • Auto awesome: Combine multiple photographs using different methods such as mix, HDR, smile, motion and pano.

Search

Amit Singhal arrived on stage to talk about Search. Singhal began by giving his background as a kid and interest in `Star Trek’, when he fancied building a computer that answers every question asked to it.

Improvements coming up to Google Search across 3 areas:

Answer

  • Improvements to Knowledge Graph’s functionality
  • Support for additional languages

Converse

  • Conversational search through Chrome
  • Improved natural language support through hot-wording

Anticipate

  • Better guesses at next question to be asked
  • New cards in `Google Now’:

Reminders
Public transit
Music albums
TV shows
Video games
Books

These improvements were demoed by Johanna Wright, VP, Search & Assist, Mobile.

Amit returned to summarize the announcements and switched the focus to Google Maps.

Google Maps:

Brian McClendon, VP, Google Maps arrived on stage and began by giving a background of how Google Maps’ functionality was like earlier, stressing on the importance of obtaining accurate and complete data and later focused on the different layers of data sources that make up a complete map.

Daniel Graf, Director, Google Maps arrived on stage and began by commenting about Google Maps for not just Android but also iOS. The next release of Google Maps for mobile, coming to Android and iOS will contain:

  • New look and design with support for 3D movement and rotation
  • Consistent 5-point rating system across all Google Maps’ products
  • Reviews for restaurants written by Zagat
  • Offers’ experience for special deals
  • Dynamic rerouting and incident alerts for directions and navigation
  • For tablets, new experience, including `explore’ mode.

Graf demoed this on a Nexus 4 and stated that this will be coming out this summer.

Bernhard Seefeld, Product Director, Google Maps and Jonah Jones, Lead Designer, Google Maps next arrived on stage. Seefeld talked about maps that are personalized, have immersive imagery across different layers and UI improvements.

Jonah demoed the changes.

Larry Page arrived on stage and narrated about his background of interest in technology. He talked about the various ways that technology is bringing about a change in the lives of people, mentioning some examples of his own life.

It was then time for Q & A, after which the keynote ended.

To summarize, Google has announced new features to multiple products and services by the dozen, and also has launched a few new ones. However, is this plan unrealistic? Will it turn out to be one of Google’s notorius failures in launching overly ambitious projects like Google Wave? Orkut lost it’s turf to Facebook, and Google+ hasn’t gone head to head with Facebook yet. Can Google Maps overcome security and privacy concerns for street view? Will Android’s future remain inhibited by Oracle’s control over Java? Can the Chromebook ever become a PC usable for both offline and online use? Will Youtube be able to properly handle the issue of objectionable content? These and many other questions remain to be answered. Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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