What a week!
We’ve been covering the Google I/O 2013 conference this week with a preview and three-part series (catch up on Parts I, II, and III if you missed them), but let’s take a step back and see what really happened. What are the big changes coming to Google, what does it mean for the company, and what does it mean for the consumer?
I would say these are the most important announcements made during the Keynote speeches:
- Android and Chrome are continuing to grow, both in adoption and features.
- Cross-Platform Sign-On: integration for Google sign-in between websites and devices.
- Google Play Game Services: Cloud Save, Achievements, Leaderboards, and Multiplayer.
- Google Play Music All Access: Google’s own music streaming service for $9.99/month (or $7.99/month if you sign up by June 30).
- Samsung Galaxy S4, Nexus-style: no TouchWiz UI, just a basic Google experience on the Samsung hardware.
- Improved mobile checkout experience: 3 steps instead of 21.
- Multi-device gaming: can place multiple devices physically next to each other and play a game that uses all the screens together as part of the game.
- Google Play for Education: educational content suggested by teachers for classrooms and students.
- Google Plus upgrades: new Stream experience (multiple columns, related hashtags, etc.), new Hangouts messaging (conversation list, notification syncing, etc.), and a new Photos experience (upgraded storage, and added features: Highlight, Enhance, and Awesome).
- Voice Search: coming soon to Chrome on desktops and laptops, as well as enhancements to its functionality on all devices (can answer deeper questions and search more intuitively).
- Google Now: reminders for events.
- Google Maps: can now see the Zagat rating for restaurants, improved incident alerts, dynamic rerouting, a new, simplified look, easier to see suggestions from friends, easier to see directions, “Street View” for inside buildings, and an improved “Google Earth experience” built in.
Where is Google going?
From looking at the announcements, what the senior leadership said, and what Larry Page said, Google is essentially pushing forward with the same vision: to improve people’s lives through information and technology. I think the mix of announcements showed this:
- Most of the focus of the conference was on developers and empowering them to continue to create better and better technology-based solutions. As it should have been – this was a developer conference.
- However, some of the conference was obviously focused on improvements Google was making to their own products, mostly outside the purview of developers. As it should have been – this was a Google conference.
- There were some announcements regarding new hardware (Chromebook Pixel, Nexus-style Galaxy S4), but not a lot. It was obvious this conference was primarily about software, both focused on improvements to developer tools as well as Google’s core software (Chrome, Android, Voice Search, Maps, etc.).
- The announcements had a great blend of sort-of new, sort-of small improvements all the way to the “Heck yes, we did something freakin’ awesome” announcements.
- The leadership, including Larry Page, focused on where technology needs to go. “We can do this, but we need to push ourselves to do this.” “We’re here, we need to move toward there.” “Current technology is awesome, but imagine what the future holds.” It’s obvious they’re taking a forward-thinking approach. However, it was good to see them not getting “too big for their britches.” The conference didn’t showcase a ton of 100% new products or services, but mostly focused on making improvements to the current portfolio. It seemed to be an appropriate mix, at least at this point.
What we have to look forward to
Where’s Google going? Into the future of technology. Into the realm of allowing technology to take over the mundane parts of our lives, in order to free us up to do the things that matter. I think that’s a great goal, but it’s a fine line to tread. How much will we give up to technology in the process? What will happen to our personalities and souls as we move forward? I think the ideas are great, but we need to prepare ourselves psychologically for what’s coming.
Technology is only going to become more intuitive, which is both wonderful and scary at the same time.