Android expands again to platforms beyond its usual tablet and smartphone home.
Google held its annual I/O keynote Wednesday, which has historically served as a peek into what the company’s has planned for the next year. Keynotes of the past have usually been times when new Nexus hardware makes its first appearance but this year’s conference was devoid of announcements of refreshed tablets and smartphones, instead focusing on the new markets Android can expand into.
In an era when most TVs ship with a library of apps, Google wants to enter the crowded Smart TV and/or set-top box market (there are a number of implementation options) with Android TV. This is a redo of Google’s previous TV — Google TV didn’t gain much traction with hardware manufacturers — efforts that looks more like Google cards on a TV, than Google TV.
“We’re simply giving TVs the same level of attention phones and tablets have had,” said Android director of engineering David Singleton on stage.
Android TV features apps from Netflix, YouTube, and content purchased from the Google Play store, in addition to giving the Google treatment to live TV listings. It will also be fully compatible with Chromecast.
Google didn’t announce much more on stage about the device’s functionality, but said that it has developed partnerships with Sharp and Sony.
Hit the road with Google
In-car infotainment is a burgeoning market. It’s the one area that Nvidia can successfully market its Tegra chips, and it’s a growing revenue source for the company. So it’s no surprise that Google would make a play for the market with Google Auto.
The best way to describe Google Auto would be like Google Now for the car. When a user gets into his car in the morning, for example, it would display the shortest way to work taking into account for traffic or construction. It would also display, in card format, other pertinent information the user may want to know like appointments later in the day (with maps). There’s also shortcuts on the screen to other features, like hands-free calling, and Google maps. All of this can be controlled by voice as well.
Like Android TV, Google is partnering with other companies to bring Android Auto to consumers. Android Auto will be featured in cars from partners that are members of the Open Automotive Alliance—with virtually all the big car brands represented —and the first cars with the system will be available by the end of the year.
All of Google’s announcements on stage had one thing in common: they all featured Android L, the successor to Kit-Kat.
The first thing one will notice about Android L is the enhancements in the user interface. Google is introducing a new design aesthetic in Android L called “Material Design,” which is a metaphor that each layer you interact with is a discrete physical object with its own recognizable, consistent color scheme and “live tile” like functionality.
Here’s a primer video from Google on it:
Android L will also bring improved versions of notifications.
Android L will also be the first version of Android to to use ART, the successor to the Dalvik, as its runtime, which brings developers 5,000 new APIs. Below are some benchmarks outlining the performance that ART will bring to Android:
Android L will also bring big battery life improvements through implementing something called “Project Volta.” This will allow users to squeeze an extra 90 minutes of battery life out of their devices by doing things like lowering the screen refresh rate. It also provides a function called “Battery Historian” which allows users to find out which apps are sucking up the most juice.
Google hasn’t confirmed a release date for Android L, but most are expecting it to be pushed out in the fall.