Is Google up to something?
Google! At this point last year we had already heard rumblings of what you'd announce at your annual gathering of developers and fans, Google I/O. The Nexus 7 made by Asus was announced by Asus earlier in the year, disappeared, and finally reappeared bearing the Nexus logo and a delicious pricetag. Even that ball of joy, the Nexus Q, which raised more questions than answers leaked ahead of your event. There was the general concensus that the next version of Android, codename Jelly Bean, would be released, along with announcements for Chrome OS, and Google Glass.
Yet no solid evidence has led me to believe any new hardware will be showcased at Google I/O 2013. And as for software, that could be Android 4.3 Jelly Bean for all I know. So, where does that leave us just two weeks before the conference in San Francisco? Have you finally silenced the mole?
Google's session schedule recently went live and it covers a wide range of topics. As you'd expect, Android along with Chrome & Apps are front and center, followed by Google+, Google Cloud Platform, Google Maps, and YouTube.
But knowing the playbill and understanding the choreography which makes up the show are not to be confused with one another. We know absolutely nothing about this event.
Where are the hardware and software leaks? We've almost come to expect them over the past few years, and this year is no exception. We were already greeted by the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One through months of rumored specs and leaked images. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned so far in 2013, it’s that leaks and rumors generate hype. Though it’s no different than before, 2013 has proven to be one of those times where a good old fashioned “leak” goes a long way. It gives manufacturers a chance to gauge interest and feedback. It gives technology sites like PhoneDog the chance to simmer over any “what if” scenarios and improvements new devices have over the outgoing models. But most importantly, it means the tech industry is doing its job in digging for the latest news.
But Google I/O 2013 is a moot point. That is, there is a whole lot of skepticism and not many answers. Google I/O is on its way to becoming a complete hardware surprise, or a software-focused event, or neither...maybe both? All we know is that Google will most likely have announcements for the next version of Android, Google Glass, maybe Chrome OS, and a bombarding amount of statistics to appease investors.
On the hardware front, there has been speculation of a Google-branded Motorola smartphone for quite some time. Since Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility for a cool $12.5 billion last March, word around the Web has been tight-lipped and many are anxious to see what Google is really getting out of the deal (aside from Motorola's overvalued patent portfolio). With an unofficial name of “X” Phone, questionable specifications, and the possibility of multiple colors, this device has evaded a solid rundown for nearly a year. Has Google locked their ex-Motorola Mobility employees in a self-sustaining underground bunker?
More recently, some rumors have led many to believe Google is more likely to unveil a Nexus 4 refresh with LTE and 32GB of on-board storage in tow. In other words, another Nexus 4. But even the launch of a new smartphone would also be a first for Google in that the Mountain View company usually reserves smartphone announcements for the Fall.
Then there’s the wishful thinking that Google will announce a successor to the wildly popular 7-inch budget tablet, the Nexus 7. While there is plenty of room to improve its specifications, the foundation of what the Nexus 7 has thrived on - price - will be the largest obstacle for Google. At last year's event, Google used the Nexus 7 to launch Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and simultaneously position the Nexus brand as a line of affordable and high quality gadgets. But if Google chose to release an Asus-made Nexus 7 II, then both Asus and Google have done a stellar job in keeping such a device under wraps. In fact, we have only seen tablets in the 7-inch form factor manufactured by Samsung announced in 2013 thus far, and while it's not out of the question to believe Google could switch to a Samsung-branded Nexus 7 successor, it wouldn't add up. Asus and Google have a successful partnership.
Knowing Google used the Nexus 7 last year to showcase Jelly Bean, it's not quite clear as to what Google will use a Nexus 7 successor for. There is no inclination that Google will actually unveil Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie after a build of Android "JWR23B" made a quick cameo about a week ago. Seeing that all Android builds begin with the first letter of their codename, JWR23B is likely Android 4.3 and not Android 5.0, so Google I/O might reissue Jelly Bean with tweaks instead of a completely revamped OS.
But on what device? A smartwatch?
Likewise, it's unfair to say Google has nothing in store. The primary takeaway of Google's session schedule is the Google Cloud Platform conference. Many agree that Google's smorgasbord of chat services need a unified messaging client, and Google Babel (or Babble) could do that. Judging by the frequency of Google's Cloud Platform sessions, it would bewho of you not to write-off an unveiling of a unified chat client during one these sessions. As Evan Selleck recently pointed out, Google could also be announcing a Game Center to compete with Microsoft and Sony. It seems that Day 2 of the conference may be the prime candidate for a focus on Google gaming.
In addition to a unified chat messaging service and the possibility of a Google Game Center, it's likely we'll be updated on the mainstream Google Glass units which Eric Schmidt recently said are scheduled for a 2014 launch. Though I'm eager to get my hands on a set, it's a safe bet that Google would update us on how their Explorer Edition units have fared in the wild anyway, so, a Google Glass launch is likely out of the picture for this event.
Unofficially, we know nothing, but they say the dusk is darkest before the dawn, and it has proven to be a daunting task to take each rumor with a grain of salt as we inch closer to the May 15 kick-off of Google I/O 2013. Do you expect any particular piece of hardware at Google I/O, or do you think Google should focus on making it a showcase of software only? Hit the comments below and tell me what you want to see!