June 25, 2014
Google Declares Smartphones Could Be At Center Of Connected-Device Universe
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
At its Google I/O conference on Wednesday, the tech giant showcased the latest version of its Android operating system and essentially declared that smartphones – powered by Android of course – would be at the center of its connected-device universe. This could provide connectivity with cars, fitness devices and even provide streaming video and game apps that would display via Android TV.
Sundar Pichai, the head of Google's Android division, kicked things off at the 2014 conference, noting Android currently has more than one billion users worldwide – while Android app installs rose 236 percent last year. Android also now has 62 percent of the global market share of tablets. Pichai unveiled "L" – also known as "Android 5.0," the latest version of Google's mobile operating system and the one that could bring all these devices together.
This was the "first time that Google has offered an advanced look at its next generation operating system, and developers will be able to download it," Wired's Mat Honan reported.
The unveiling of Android 5.0 was one of several firsts, or at least showcased how Google, which still makes most of its money from advertising, has continued to shift to smartphones and tablet computers. Google made its expansion into the wearables category as engineering director David Singleton revealed Android Wear, an OS that would power smart watches from third party makers including the LG G and Samsung Gear. Those new wearable devices will go on sale beginning tomorrow in the Google Play store, reports CBS News.
Google, which has existing partnerships with several automobile makers, also announced Android Auto, which would bring many popular features found in smartphones to new car models. More than 40 automakers could provide these features in upcoming models, where the technology could include contextually aware navigation, streaming music and other communications functions.
Android TV, which will be available this fall, could allow Google to make a play for the TV market as a way to stream movies, TV shows and games and "cast" these to the set in the living room. This is notable in that Google announced this technology could be built-in sets by various manufacturers including Sony and Sharp and also provided through streaming boxes.
However, it doesn't seem like this is meant to be a replacement for its Chromecast, which is also reportedly getting its own makeover, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The big take away from the I/O conference was how the smartphone could be used to tie all these different devices together.
"Nothing else is next to us more often than the smartphone," said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics. "As it becomes more powerful it becomes they remote control of your life and how you interact with things."
The question however becomes whether everyone will adopt Android, and what Google's competitors may look to do as a reaction.
"The smartphone whether that be a Google Android device, or an Apple iPhone or Microsoft Nokia or any of the other smartphone makers are all heading in the same direction," said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. "There will be several different universes. All customers have to do is choose one and buy all their products."
For Google, this isn't a hardware play as much as it might be for Apple or Microsoft, but rather comes back to the fact Google is still looking at ways of providing advertising to its users.
"Google wants to be at that intersection in order to tailor advertising that is contextual and appealing to your needs and hence can profit from it," Entner told redOrbit. "Whoever has the largest markets share [sic] and does this the best will reap massive benefits. Google is winning the market share battle that makes this possible. Apple is a strong second by winning in the app ecosphere and currently with the promise to protect you from the profiling that Google wants to do as both companies are fundamentally approaching the matter with diametric solution. In the end, the consumer decides which is the better solution for them. The battle rages on, but we are not even scratching the surface of what this choice means for us."
Moreover, Kagan told redOrbit, "Google is heading in the right direction, just be aware that they are not doing anything unique among the competitive wireless industry."