Google’s I/O developer conference this year will be a big event for Google and for Android devotees, but don’t expect any major hardware announcements or revolutionary changes to the Android operating system. Android’s new chief Sundar Pichai had sat down in an interview with Wired to hint at what to expect at Google I/O, which is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday, and to temper expectations on any hardware that may be coming out of that conference.
“It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system,” Pichai bluntly says. Instead, the company will be focused on services and creating the backbone needed for developers to take the Android experience to the next level.
“Both on Android and Chrome, we’re going to focus this I/O on all of the kinds of things we’re doing for developers, so that they can write better things. We will show how Google services are doing amazing things on top of these two platforms.”
One such service is expanding Google’s focus on gaming, and we’ve seen that a Google Play Games hub was leaked recently. With Play Games, Google could go head-to-head with both Apple’s Game Center and Microsoft’s Games hub on Windows Phone by offering Android gamers achievements, leaderboards, social game play, and the ability to save game progress in the cloud.
And a focus on services makes sense. Google doesn’t make money licensing Android–it freely gives away the OS to manufacturers to embed and use on hardware. Where Google makes money is through advertising, collecting user behavior on mobile through services like Google Now, and sales of digital content after the device has been purchased like through the Play Store. Better supporting the Android services will help Google lure in developers who are hoping to monetize on Android.
Another reason is that Google is finally starting to ship Google Glass to developers. It will likely need the time at I/O to work with developers and offer them guidance on how to create apps and craft experiences for Glass as the hardware will be launching for consumers sometime in 2014.
Still, even without any significant or major hardware or Android OS announcement, it’s hard to not get excited about the future of Android in a competitive ecosystem war at I/O, which is scheduled to happen at around the same time as Nokia’s London event and BlackBerry’s developer conference on the East Coast.
In terms of hardware, Google is rumored to be using I/O to launch an updated iteration of its Nexus 7 tablet.