Unless you have: been living under a rock, don’t use Google, or were just born, you should have heard about the recent changes that were made to the Google product suite. The changes were announced at the sixth annual Google I/O Keynote. Google I/O is an event where Google offers insight into their products and services as well as giving previews of things to come. These conferences are usually the first time the public is given the chance to see the latest developments to come from behind the curtain.
The spirit of Google I/O is to help developers and webmasters understand how Google is working to help them 1) integrate Google services into there websites, applications and technology and 2) how these changes or developments can be used to make profit, better their (developers) creations while sharing details on how to do so. Even if you are not a web developer or application builder, there is tons of great user-based products, information and news. Along with product releases and announcements, Google I/O is a method for sharing information about Google’s progress.
Some of the interesting facts released during first section of the three-hour keynote were:
- Focus of product development has been centered on Android and Chrome.
- New activations of Android: 100 Million (2011) to 400 Million (2012) activations of Android. Currently at 900 Million.
These interesting tidbits where shared in the opening of I/O by Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Google.
Following Vic, Sundar Pichai the Senior Vice President of Product Development discussed the two primary focuses of Google in regard to the search giant’s product-side of the business. During his segment, Sundar mentioned how only 7 years ago (or so), it was only desktops that connected us the way we wanted/needed, smart phones took us to the next level of technology (and other ‘mobile’ computing devices).
Google Android and Chrome
This is the reason that Google focuses on 2 platforms: Android and Chrome. Android’s mission and purpose is meant to be a method for developers to innovate using open standards that are robust yet simple. The platform is build on the concept of community, that everyone contribute to the growth of the whole through individual contributions.
Chrome, both the browser and operating system, are also built around the idea that the technology can only get better if more heads are on the ‘job,’ figuring out better ways of approaching data management, computing methods, functions, user experiences and browsing. Browsing is a method of connecting users with information or experiences they are longing for, Chrome (the browser) should be easy to use and efficient way to navigate the web we, as an internet community, have created.
The keynote was then handed over to Hugo Barra, VP of Product Development for Android, who discussed new developer tools along with statistics about application creation and installs. As of the date of the Google I/O event (5/15/2013), there has been 48 billion app installs on Android enabled devices, more than any other application platform.
With such high demands and a sense of open community, Hugo stated that Google listened to the request and insight of the developers of those apps and focused on a few common request. As a result Google was introducing some new app focused elements:
- 3 new location apis
- Fused Location Provider (Wifi, GPS, Cell)
- Geofencing (define a geographic area for apps)
- Activity recognition (accelerator data for movement and distance tracking)
- Cross platform single-sign on. Sign in on Google (uses the Google+ system) allows for integration across apps and properties. (Actually effects all Google Properties)
- GCM (Google Cloud Messaging) – Used to support apps and system. Introducing synced notifications [finally!!] With synced notifications, acknowledging the notification on one device removes the notification across all devices and/or services.
- Google Play Game Services – will use the users’ Circles to help engage his/her’s friends to make the experience more personal. Also use of API will allow cross platform use.
(Are you a developer or interested in getting started? Check out Google Android Studio, the interface is pretty sweet and the have made creating apps for Google Play pretty easy, with a little understanding of the coding language of course.)
Google Pixel Chromebook
All this talk of devices and Chrome led into a little, granted welcomed, product placement. Sundar brought up the latest desktop product, the Google Pixel. Pixel has been out for a little over a year, following the creation of the Google netbook aka ChromeBook. But, as Sundar said, “[we've been] investing a lot in these area this year.” He was referring to Chrome and Pixel. It was also stating that the purpose of Chrome was Speed, Simplicity, and Security.
At which point he said that everyone in attendance would be receiving a ‘free’ Google Pixel! Free is relative I suppose. Google I/O tickets ran for $900 for general admission and $300 for accademic admission. Depending on the size of the harddrive, Google Pixels can retail for $1299 to $1449 in the Google Play Store. Not a bad trade off.
Major Changes in Google+
Vic Gundotra then went into Google Plus. The big announcement for this area was the introduction of 41 new features that would be releases that very afternoon, following the keynote. Vic focused on three areas: Stream, Hangouts, and Photos.
With the Google+ Streams, the major changes were: a new Stream layout (streamlined and focused on content management) and auto-generated Related hash tags. Making it easier to find associated content.
Hangouts have been pulled out of the Google+ platform as a simple application and is now a stand-alone service. Now, on mobile devices, tablets and online, Google Hangout can be downloaded and installed separate from Google+. Along with this major change, Hangouts was updated to offer:
- Circle planning (circles are set up to reflect true life situations not just “friends” or “not friends” like ‘other’ networks.)
- A technology that facilitates connections not hindering it, you shouldn’t need to find a way to contact people on their level.
- Group video at the touch of a button, without a charge.
Pictures have also had a major overhaul in the Google+ platform. It appears that this area of the system was a big focus this year and as such, a lot of the changes focused on quality of the images and recognizing important elements in uploaded photos.
- Camera with Cloud (automatically correcting and editing)
- Using the Google Datacenter for backup/storage (started at 5 GB, now to 15 GB free) “Some memories aren’t meant to be downsized.”
- Photo analyzation to make ‘highlights’ on search and image galleries.
- Auto Enhance (Algorithm understands human nuances.)
- “Auto Awesome” burst mode to generate gifs for you.
- Facial recognition to construct happy smiling faces for collages, gifs and more.
The End of Search
Yup, that is how Amit Singhal introduced his section of the Keynote concerning the element of Google that started it all. After a mild heart attack and running around the office saying the sky was falling, I sat down and intently listened as he explained why search, as we knew it, was not going to be the same.
The end of search:
- Knowledge Graph – Answering questions before a user leaves the search.
- Statistics coming soon to the SERPs near you.
- Anticipations of next questions (comparisons, associated content, statistics, etc.)
- Extremely personalized results depending on your information, care of Google+ and assorted device data.
- “Search is meant to be a conversation not a string of of keywords”: introducing Conversational Search and Hot-Wording (no interface, just say ‘Okay Google’)
- Answers, Converse, Anticipate – the focus of Google search in the new age of search.
To explain more about the conversational search and hot wording used in Google Now, the Vice President of Search/Mobile Johanna Wright took the stage. She discussed that the recently released Knowledge Graph is linked to Conversational/Hot Wording search systems. This link gives the voice recognition system an authoritative and robust database to pull information from. Currently, Conversational Search is only on Chrome and Chrome OS. Johanna briefly previewed Reminders, which allow users to speak vocal commands that setup quick reminders to alert individuals of events.
The section on Maps was a little more function based and abstract. The gist was that the Google Maps system was updated to incorporate 3-D renderings of buildings and places. They also expanded into locations that were ‘less traveled,’ such as oceans, interiors and landmarks.
Here are the high points concerning Google Maps:
Brian McClendon, VP Google Maps
- Over 1 Million websites using Google Maps
Daniel Graf, Director
- No more Zaggat
- Dynamic rerouting using changes in road conditions
- Explore feature allows you to find location attraction
Droid Life actually has an article concerning the updates that are in the pipeline for Maps. As we all know, things change so we are apprehensive about making any announcements or conclusions concerning what we can expect or the way businesses or users will use the system in the near future.
Quotable from the conclusion of Google I/O Keynote:
“A law can’t be right if it’s 50 years old, before the Internet.” – Larry Page
Change is really hard to accept for most, and it seems like every time we log on to Google (and many other web platforms) there are a ton of updates, changes, alterations or new services. Some changes are innately bad, others are really great! In either case we all, especially web technologist and marketers, should see them as opportunities. Opportunities to learn something new. Opportunities to develop the next level of our craft, a client’s marketing strategy, or a better way to connect to the internet community.
Never loose sight of the fact that just twenty years ago you didn’t have access to the whole of human knowledge in your pocket. Everyday we move forward with technology is another day towards achieving the dreams we share of creating a better world. The picture may change but the gallery remains. Google is just a method for achieving something you (or the people you work with) hold as important or necessary to your daily, weekly, short-term or long-term goals. What really matters most is what those goals are. Google has “improved” it’s products, the tools have changed, how you wield them is up to you; feel empowered by these opportunities-stop whining!