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The Lowdown: What Google Announced At I/O 2012

Google unveiled the Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q entertainment device and previewed Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’, the next major release of Android OS at Google I/O, its ongoing annual developer conference at Moscone Center, San Francisco. Here is a quick lowdown on all the announcements:

Device Activations: Hugo Barra, Product Management Director, Android announced that Google is registering 12 new device activations every second and 1 million device activations on a daily basis, which is a significant increase from 400,000 daily device activations in the previous I/O. It has clocked a total of 400 million device activations to date, a four-fold increase from 100 million device activations announced at the previous Google I/O. Barra claimed that the Android adoption rate of Android has grew by over 500% over the past year in developing countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand.

Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ – Google previewed Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’, the next major release of its mobile operating system Android, which brings in several new features like dynamic and expandable notifications, predictive keyboard, offline voice typing, smoother and more responsive user interface, auto-arranging icons and auto widget resizing, depending upon the space available in the homescreen.

Google has added support for 18 new Input languages in Jelly Bean which include Indic languages like Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam and improved support for bi-directional languages like Arabic and Hebrew and will be shipping with a total 27 international keymaps for keyboards. The company however noted that offline voice typing will be limited to US English at present. Besides this, Jelly Bean will feature improved accessibility features like an external braille input, improved camera, and Android Beam which allows users to share images, videos to any other NFC-enabled Android Beam phone or pair with NFC-capable Bluetooth devices by tapping the phone against it. Google claimed that around 1 million NFC-enabled Android devices have been shipped till now.

Jelly Bean also brings a new search experience to Android devices by leveraging the recently launched Knowledge graph to provide richer information to users in a redesigned user interface. The company informed that voice search now understands natural language queries and delivers answers in addition to a list of search results. It introduced a new feature called Google Now which learns from user’s search history, calendar appointments, habits and activities to offer personalized information that they can use. This includes personalized navigation directions, information on when the next bus or train arrives, weather and sports information among others.

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Jelly Bean will be arriving on Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Zoom and Nexus S in mid-July through an over the air update, although the preview SDK (Software development kit) is available for download from Android Developer website starting today.

In what seems to be a possible bid to improve the rollout of updates to various Android devices, Google also announced the availability of a platform development kit (PDK) for chipset vendors and hardware manufacturers to port updates to their Android devices easily. This will be made available to manufacturers 2 to 3 months before the platform’s official release. Barra noted that Google has already shared Jelly Bean to some of its partners although he didn’t specifically mention the names of these partners.

Google Play Store: Google stated that the Google Play Store now has 600,000 apps and is currently generating 1.5 billion installs per month and 20 billion total app installs. However, it should be noted that there is no information yet on how many of them are tablet specific apps or how much has Google paid out its developers. Google stated that Google Play store is offering paid apps in 132 countries, free apps in 190 countries and more than 50% of its app revenues now comes from in-app billing in just an year of the feature launch. Note that Google has tied up with Uninor to offer operator billing for Android apps in India.

Google has also introduced Smart App updates which allows Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ users to download only changes to the app rather than downloading it entirely, App encryption which encrypts paid apps with a device-specific encryption keys before they are delivered and are stored on the device, and Google Cloud Messaging which is essentially an improved version of Google’s Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) framework which enables developers send data from their servers to their apps on Android devices. This service will be free and will allow developers to send unlimited messages as of now. Google also noted that it has delivered more than a billion C2DM messages till now.

Other significant improvements includes the addition of movies and television episodes purchases to Google Play store from studios like Disney, NBC universal and Paramount among others. It will also feature a magazine section which allows users to purchase magazines from publishers like Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith among others. That being said, there is no information if these content offerings will be rolled out to regions outside the United states but looking back at the previous history of content rollouts in Google Play Store, we assume these will be exclusive to the United States.

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Nexus 7: Google unveiled its first ever tablet in the Nexus family, Nexus 7. The company has tied up with Asus to build this tablet and it features a 7″ IPS display screen with resolution of 1280X800, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1GB RAM, 1.2 megapixels front facing camera, 8GB or 16GB internal storage, NFC, usual connectivity options like WiFi, Bluetooth, Micro USB and a 4325 mAh battery. Google claimed that the tablet will provide a battery life of 9 hours video playback time and 300 hrs standby time. Nexus 7 will run on Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ and will be available from mid-July in Canada, US, UK and Australia for $199 on Google Play Store.

Nexus Q: Google announced a new social streaming media player, Nexus Q, which is the company’s first hardware product built from the ground up. This player will allow users to stream content like music, television episodes, movies and videos from YouTube and Google Play Store in their Android phone/tablet onto their television sets. However it should be noted that this player will require an Android device on the same Wi-Fi network to function and it cannot work standalone. Nexus Q will be available from mid-July in the US for $299 on the Google Play Store and is currently available for pre-order for users based in the United States.

Google+ Stats: Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of Social, announced that Google+ is now one year old. He claimed that Google+ now has 250 million upgraded Google accounts, and 150 million+ monthly active users with 50% of the users signing in daily. He stated that users spend around 12 minutes per day in the Google+ stream, up from 9 minutes few months ago. He also added that users spend more than 60 minutes per day across Google although we are not sure what exactly ‘Google’ means. Whether it means across various Google properties like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps or something else is not clear.

Google+ Tablet App: Gundotra unveiled a new Google+ app for Android tablets which brings in features like a stream view that populates content based on popularity, type and orientation and a “lean back” Hangouts experience and is available for download from the Google Play Store from today. He noted that they will also be releasing a native iPad app with all the above features soon.

Google+ Events: Gundotra also introduced a new Events feature for Google+ which offers organizers deep Google calendar and animated Cinemagraph invitations before the event, a live slideshow and a party mode which allows users to share photos live with event guests during the event and automatically turns off when the event ends. After the event, Google events sends out requests to guests for photos and videos and arrange them in a chronological order. The content with the most engagement is aggregated in the event highlight section right at the top.

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Project Glass Demo: During the keynote, Google co-founder also provided a live demo of Google’s Project Glass, which is possibly the company’s most ambitious project as of now. The wearable glasses will have sensors which are aware of its location with respect to the user’s body and the world, and features multiple radios for data communication. One of the glass designers said that Google started building these glasses around two and half years ago and has undergone various iterations to get to the current form factor. Google claimed that these glasses now weigh less than many sun glasses available in the market.

Google also opened up pre-orders for a special Google Glass Explorer edition for all US-based Google I/O attendees. The glasses will be available for $1500 and will start shipping in the US early next year. Brin noted that there are some unresolved regulatory issues because of which Google will not be able to ship them internationally at the same time.

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