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Google I/O looks to be about more than Android

Matt Hamblen | June 25, 2014
Google's annual I/O conference kicks off tomorrow amid widespread expectations that a new version of the Android OS will be unveiled, along with discussions of smartwatches and, perhaps, security.

On the other hand, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said in March 2013 that the two OSes would remain separate "for a very, very long time."

One way that Android and Chrome could move closer together would be through the use of HTML5 in building Web-based apps to run on both platforms.

In one example of how Android could be improved, CiteWorld's Chris Nerney noted in April that Google's voice-activated digital assistant Google Now doesn't yet function inside of an app (although it can be used to find those apps on a mobile device). Allowing that capability would be a valuable update for the next version of Android.

Analysts, asked what they expect to see at I/O, said they believe the upcoming version of Android will add support for smartwatches or other Android Wear devices, primarily by linking Android smartphones and their related apps to Android Wear smartwatches — probably through Bluetooth.

Several analysts said that Google is likely to reveal health-related app connections to Android, much as Samsung and Apple have done recently.

In addition, Google needs to add a unified way to control in-home devices so it can take advantage of its recent purchases of Nest and Dropcam, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Google needs to say specifically how the new Android will deal with this" home monitoring and control area, he said.

Smartwatches at Google I/O

Speculation has also focused on whether Google will announce its own Google Wear smartwatch at I/O. More likely: LG will show its LG G Watch on the OS, with possibly Motorola highlighting the Moto 360 running on Google Wear.

Moorhead said devices from Fossil and HTC will be shown, too. "Wear needs to show something above the crop of failures like the Samsung Gear if it expects to be successful," Moorhead said via email.

Moorhead wrote in Forbes recently that he has evaluated 11 different smartwatches or smart wristbands and has found most wanting when it comes to delivering a broad range of "horizontal" functions. He declared them a "long way off from mass consumer acceptance."

Security wishes for Android and Google

Of five analysts interviewed, four said Google needs to describe ways it will make Android more secure, especially for enterprise use.

Samsung has already built its own set of tools, called Knox, for use with Android. It's aimed at helping IT managers cope with employees who bring in personal devices for work. So why hasn't Google taken up security issues more directly?

"Security has been a serious problem for Android and this needs to be addressed before Android is more aggressively banned by companies," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group. "Original Equipment Manufacturers feel that Google just ignores them and has that attitude since the OEMs are getting the code for free and should just shut up or constrain their feedback to 'thank-you.'


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