Get ready for the most interesting I/O in years.
In just over a week’s time, we’ll be heading out to Mountain View for Google I/O, the annual developer conference where we’ll see, in broad terms, what’s next from Google. At its core, I/O is a developer conference, but it’s also been a platform for other major announcements from the firm, and sometimes the occasional product launch. Looking back at last May’s conference, Google foreshadowed its big push into consumer hardware with Google Home and Daydream, showed us the next evolution of Android Wear (which, incidentally wouldn’t actually be ready until the following February), and laid the foundations for Android apps on Chrome OS and Instant Apps across all Android devices.
As Google retains the same venue — Shoreline Amphitheater, a short walk from its headquarters — expect a similarly eclectic mix of consumer announcements and big important strategic things, alongside the all-important developer sessions. (Hopefully without many of the logistical issues that dogged last year’s I/O. Looks like it’s gonna be another sunny I/O.)
On the Android side, Google has been very clear that new Android O goodies will be coming, besides everything we’ve seen in the current alpha release. Expect O’s feature set to become more fleshed out with the release of the second developer preview, which should shed more light on what kind of a release cycle this will be for the OS.
It’ll be interesting to see if wearables are mentioned at all — or whether, after the launch of Android Wear 2.0, we’ll see more conservative upgrades to Wear on Android O, as the emphasis shifts to new hardware from manufacturer partners. (And the new, more efficient Snapdragon Wear SoCs you’d hope Qualcomm would be working on.)
I/O would be as good a place as any to pull back the curtain on Andromeda and Fuchsia.
More importantly, Google has to address tablets and convertibles. Despite some decent efforts of late from the likes of Samsung, the Android tablet space is essentially a wasteland. The new multitasking features recently ported to the Pixel C, together with Android O’s picture-in-picture mode, suggest Google is still serious about Android as we know it today continuing to exist on tablets.
Yet if parts of Android and Chrome OS are going to slowly start merging into one another, as very smart people seem to think will happen, devices in the tablet/convertible space will be where we see this first. And developers will need to be part of that conversation. Also: with the Pixel C almost certain to be retired this year, Google needs to release a new tablet in 2017 — if nothing else, there needs to be some kind of current reference tablet for developers. Whatever software debuts on that tablet will be in the late stages of development now, and thus likely to appear in some form at I/O. Maybe it’ll be Android for tablets, as it exists on the Pixel C with the current O preview. Maybe it’ll be something closer to Andromeda.
If, as rumored, there’s an Andromeda-powered laptop coming later this year, developers would need to see the software it’ll be running ahead of time. Thus, I/O 2017 would be as good a place as any to finally pull back the curtain on Andromeda and Fucshia, and show Google’s vision for the future of the desktop. If the big reveal does happen at Shoreline later this month, one major question will be how this “new” OS relates to “legacy” Android on current phones and tablets. That’s going to be a blurry line for a while.
Of course, it’s equally possible we might hear nothing at all about Andromeda.
Anyway — some other goings-on this week: