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The Lowdown: What Google Announced At Google I/O 2013

Google IO 2013 Logo

Google previewed a new version of Google Maps, unveiled Galaxy S4 with Stock Android and announced several new services at Google I/O 2013, its ongoing annual developer conference at Moscone Center, San Francisco.

You can read about the various developer initiatives announced in Google I/O here. A quick lowdown on all the new services Google announced in I/O 2013 below:

Device Activations: Google has clocked 900M Android device activations to date, up from 400M device activations in 2012 and 100M device activations in 2011.

Google Play Store: Google Play Store has seen 48 billion app installs to date, of which 2.5 billion app installs were in the last month alone. Google informed that in the last four months, it has paid out more money to third party developers from Google Play, than in all of last year. The revenue per user is 2.5 times of what it was an year ago globally. There were however no specific numbers disclosed on this.

Google also introduced a new tablet specific section to the Play Store (about time!) and extended the recent Play Store revamp to the web store. It also plans to roll out a similar revamp for Google Play Books, Movies, Magazines and the Music section. Note that Magazines and Music section is currently not available in India.

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Google Play for Education: Google announced a dedicated Android app store called Google Play For Education which will only feature educational apps for grades K-12 . Teachers can sort these apps by grade level or subject matter, pick out an app and instantly install on all the kids’ tablets. In a similar fashion, teachers can also push books and YouTube educational videos to tablets. The service is currently being tested in various schools and it is expected to launch in the fall, with app submissions kicking off in the summer. As an aside, Google also informed that over 1,000 schools in the United States are currently running Chromebooks.

Google Play Music: Google launched a new monthly all-access music subscription service which lets users listen to songs on their devices. Some of the features of this service include music recommendations, ability to create a radio station from any song or artist and ability to browse music through 22 different genres. It will be initially available in the United States and is priced at $9.99 per month with 30-day free trial. The company plans to roll out this service to additional countries in the forthcoming future.

Google released a new version of its Play Music Android app, bringing in a new user interface, a new Listen Now feature and few functionality tweaks like swipe to remove a song from playlist or queue or swipe to switch songs on the now playing screen or now playing bar.

It also released a new version of its Play Books iOS and Android app, adding the ability for user to upload their own PDFs and EPUB files through its website or import them from their Google Drive storage. Users can currently keep up to 1,000 EPUB or PDF files in Google Play Books for free and the file size of each book should be under 50MB.

Google Hangouts: Google unveiled an unified cross platform messaging system called Hangouts, which will available on the Chrome Web Store and through native mobile apps on Android and iOS. It will also be a part of Gmail and Google+.

The service allows users to send text, emoji, photos and videos to their friends and family. It features both one-on-one and group chat and offers a free group video chat for up to 10 people, thereby positioning it as viable Skype alternative. Google Informed that this Hangouts service will replace its existing Google Talk, Google+ messenger and the  original Google+ Hangout video chat service.

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It will be interesting to see how this service fares against existing services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype among others. Although, the service does have an edge with Gmail integration and will possible attract Google Talk users. (Video Demo).

Google Maps: Google informed that it now offers mapping information for more than 200 countries. This includes a mixture of a Google mapped countries, user mapped countries through Google Mapmaker, and third party data. Interestingly, it looks like the whole of India was mapped through Google Mapmaker. Google also claims to offer streetview information in 50 countries globally.

Google Maps

Google Maps currently has more than a billion monthly users and over one million websites are currently using Google Maps in their sites. Google Maps API usage has seen over 30% growth year-over-year and Google apparently get more maps usage on these sites than on its own products.

Google previewed the next major version of Google Maps for Android and iOS and a tablet version of Google Maps. Google informed that this updated version will feature a new suggestion engine to help users find relevant places nearby and after searching for their preferred place, users can swipe through various results at the bottom of the screen, to browse through them. It also features a new integrated Zagat review experience and Google Offers experience.

Google Maps claims to have more than one million transit stops globally and Google Maps for Android has already provided 50 billion kilometers of turn by turn directions until now. Google has now added live coverage of incidents globally along with real-time incident alerts and dynamic re-routing. The new apps are expected to be available this summer.

Google also unveiled a new revamped version of desktop Google Maps, which features a new maps interface, live 3D imagery, a new search experience with all the results labeled directly on the map, instead of markers in the existing version and Google+ integration, allowing users to show only the results which their friends have reviewed.

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It also features a new directions interface, a new public transit schedule viewer and integrated flight search reviews. Google also claimed that that the new Maps version will be heavily personalized for each user and will allow users to capture a photo sphere (Google’s version of 360 degree panoramas) on their Android device and add it to Google Maps. Google Earth has also been integrated to Google Maps (Video Demo)

Google+: Google+ now has 190 million monthly active users in the Google+ stream and 390 million upgraded accounts which are active across Google properties and are using Google+ features like +1 ing apps in Google Play and making video calls in Gmail among others.

Google announced 41 new features across three main areas – Google+ Stream, Google+ Photos and Google+ Hangouts. Some of the prominent new features include a new cards-based multi-column interface, which shows up from one to three columns depending on the device screen size and orientation. It also offers a new Related hashtags feature, wherein Google analyzes the contents of a specific post and adds a related hashtag. Users can then click on them to see related items from Google search and social sources.

Interestingly, Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of Social, said that more than half of all the sharing on Google+ is done in private circles. We believe this was said in response to several reports of Google+ being a ghost town (lack of any activity).

Google+ Photos: Google has rolled out new features like Auto Highlight, Auto-enhance and Auto-awesome. Auto Highlight scans through the user’s photos to detect blurry and duplicate images to decide the best pictures which can be showcased on the user’s album, while Auto-enhance offers photo enhancing features like noise reduction, structure and contrast among others.

Auto-awesome automatically combines pictures together to create an animated Gif and currently offers five modes – Mix, HDR, Smile, Motion, and Panorama. Smile Mode scans through multiple pictures to detect people smiling in a photogragh to develop a new photo where all people are smiling while Panorama feature creates panoramic photos from pictures taken side by side. (Video Demo)

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Earlier this week, Google had also unified its storage options, offering users 15GB storage space across Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos.

Google Search: Google’s Knowledge graph has 570 million entities to date. Google has now added support for Polish, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese to the knowledge graph service and it now shows graphs and trend lines on Google Search. Google said that users can also now search for “my upcoming flight” and “restaurant reservation” to get personal results.

Google has introduced Conversational Voice Search and hot wording to Chrome, allowing users to just speak to the computer to get answers. For instance, users can  “Okay Google, how far is Delhi from here?” and Google will respond with the answer along with directions. This will be along with the existing Knowledge graph service.

Google has also added new Google Now cards for reminders, public transit commute time cards, and music, TV, movies, books, video game recommendations.

Samsung Galaxy S4 With Nexus User Experience: Google announced a new variant of Samsung Galaxy S4 with Stock Android 4.2.2 and Nexus User experience. The phone will be available on the US Google Play Store for $649 contract-free from June 26, 2013 and will offer LTE support on AT&T and T-Mobile. Its not clear if the company plans to extend the device to other markets including India, however its worth noting that Galaxy S4 has not been subsidized by Google like previous Nexus devices.

Google Wallet: Google Wallet will feature Gmail Integration, allowing users to quickly and securely send money to their friends and family through email.  Similar to attaching files to an email, one can attach money to an email and send to their friends and family. The service is free if the user is sending money from their Google Wallet balance or if the user’s bank account is linked to Google Wallet else Google charges a flat 2.9% fee per transaction to send money using the user’s linked credit or debit card on Google Wallet. The service is expected to be rolled over the coming months to all U.S. Gmail users over 18 years old. However, it will be limited to desktop version of Gmail. (Video Demo)

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Google Chrome: Google Chrome now has 750M monthly active users, up from 450M monthly active users in I/O 2012. Google attributed the new growth to Chrome on mobile phones and tablets, however it didn’t disclose any usage breakdown between the desktop and the mobile version.

The company previewed the next-generation video codec VP9 for faster video-streaming performance and said that YouTube will add VP9 support later this year. It also previewed a new data compression proxy feature for Chrome on Mobile, which shows users how much data they are saving and a new requestAutocomplete API which makes checkout much faster on mobile through Google Wallet.

YouTube: While Google didn’t disclose any YouTube related information in the keynote, YouTube has now expanded its live streaming service to more YouTube channels, allowing any YouTube channel with more than 1,000 subscribers to apply for the feature.

Google TV: Google informed that it will be rolling out Android 4.2.2 ‘Jelly Bean’ update to Google TV in the following weeks. Google TV will also receive the latest version of Chrome during the day, following which Google will be rolling out Chrome updates every six weeks. Google has also added hardware-based content protection to Chrome for Google TV, enabling developers to offer high definition premium TV content within their web apps.

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