Google I/O 2013 is a lesson in appreciation, not disappointment

Published: May 16, 2013

The opening act of Google I/O 2013 has come and gone without any major software overhaul or hardware announcements, but I'm thankful anyways. Many were expecting something of the Mountain View company to sweep them off their feet like past Android updates and Nexus announcements have done. But I'm far from disappointed in the results of the opening keynote primarily because of Google's honing of the details which make Android, Chrome, and Google Play Services mature platforms for their services.

Make no mistake, Google I/O disappointed my gadget-hungry alter ego just as much as it did yours. I long for hardware announcements like air underwater, and even though a "stock Galaxy S 4" made a cameo, it wasn't a Nexus device. Yes, it's an important step towards stock Android making an appearance on varying smartphones, and it's even more important for AOSP, but it didn't fulfill my craving for new hardware like new Nexus devices do.

This time around, Google delivered far less excitement than I was desperately hoping for. We have come to almost expect Google to announce new hardware. Expectations led many to believe Google would announce a refresh to any one of their Nexus devices, an update to Android, a newsflash regarding Google Glass, and a Chrome OS refresh, among other things. Yet none of that happened, and while I'm not as enthralled by the announcements as I was during last year's I/O, I'm much more positive of the growing criticism of Google and what Google is doing about it.

But first things first: Developers Conferences are for developers and at I/O, they took center stage. This was a software-centric keynote and was used to improve the experience for the developer which ultimately leads to the benefit of the end user. Google's Developers Conference was used to outline better ways to develop apps, services, and improve the end-user experience by assisting developers in content creation. By polishing existing services, Google's overall portfolio looks and works better. But most importantly, investors get to reap the benefits of services that can be monetized and solidify long-term viability when developers enjoy using Google's services as a platform for development.

Android announced its new Android Studio IDE which promises to improve the app development process with real-time previews within the IDE. Paired with the improved Google Play Services which has new app optimization tips, revenue graphs, beta-tester controls and metrics for app usage, Google Analytics is hard at work for developers which should prove to be a rewarding bonus when working with Google.

Yet Google's primary sighs of relief came from Google Hangouts where messaging clients spanning Talk and Google+ Messenger were rolled up into one unified service. Even though a lack of SMS integration leaves me desiring more, cross-platform operability helps Google push Hangouts as a competitor to BBM, iMessage, and WhatsApp all at once, which is important when you have the world's most popular mobile OS.

That's when Google announced that there would be no major announcements for the Chrome Browser or Chrome OS. Why, you ask? Because none are required to continue Google's push as the world's most popular web browser. Sure, there was the news of an additional 300 million monthly active users up from 450 million last year, as well as improved rendering capabilities and developer tools for faster downloads, but Chrome's dominance on the desktop and resurgence in mobile means very little is required to continue the upswing. It is clearly working well, and doing a fine job at that.

Such is the mentality of the world's most popular search engine in 2013. We've gotten this far by honing our services when required, so let's make a big deal out of the announcements which iterate true change, instead of announcing incremental hardware and software updates as ground-breaking.

There was an announcement of Google Search which brought voice recognition and natural language understanding to desktops, which is essentially a reflection of what users already do with Google Now app on mobile devices.

There were updates to Google+ which is more like V2.0 for the app as it completely redesigned the interface on all platforms and added many features like automatic hashtagging and photo auto-enhancements.

It was announced that Google Maps is set to receive a UI overhaul and solidify itself as the epitome of Google's ubiquitous influence in unknown territories which require directions.

And that's about it. Sure, only the first day has passed, but I'm not getting my hopes up for an update to Android since those announcements are usually revealed on the opening day. Most of the headlining announcements are left for the keynote. After all, Android Jelly Bean is just barely a year old, and if you count incremental software updates, Jelly Bean is even younger.

But the flag left waving at the end of Google's three and a half hour repertoire was the news that stock prices shot up to an all-time high after a month of steady increases. Google Play Music All Access, the music subscription service with unlimited skips and plays was largely the culprit which Anna recently outlined. But what this means for Google is that they're one-upping the competition and increasing their portfolio of services...again. Who wins? You and Google although iOS users will have to wait a bit to experience all that access. 

For better or worse, Google has matured its services to a point where they believe very little was required to improve our experiences with them. Chrome, Gmail, Maps, and Search are all fine-tuned to a point where they do not require a major overhaul of an OS like past implementations of the Android Open Source Project has required.

Has Google, then, reached a point at which it can focus on the experience of their current services rather than seeking a thrill in new developments?

For the time being, I believe so. Google I/O is first and foremost a showcase of "what's new" for Google's platform of services and solutions. In fact, it's shaping up to be a very rewarding time to be a developer for any of Google's apps and services. We could very well be on the verge of the next Nexus Megalodon, Nexus 7 II, Google Glass, and a Motorola Mobility reboot, but I'm trying not to get a bit too ahead of myself in the process which is about as easy as avoiding a cigarette.

Google has largely built itself as the company we expect to sweep us off our feet with new services, software developments, and recently, hardware. Yet Larry Page's closing of the keynote truly put my mind at ease and I'm left very thankful of what Google has done for technologists and mobile fans alike, and I can't ignore how far we've come thanks to the portfolio of Google's current crop of services.

"Every story I read about Google is about us versus some other company, or something else, and I really don't find that interesting. We should be building things that don't exist. [Being negative] is not how we make progress," said Google CEO Larry Page at the end of the keynote.

What do you think? Let me know down below.

Image via Android Police.

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