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What to expect at Google I/O 2015: Google Cloud, Google Now for Apple Watch, and SWAG

Google's annual developer conference, I/O will have a few surprises, many product enhancements, and possible haymakers thrown at its competitors.

Google I/O 2015 what to expect
Credit: Zach Miners, IDGNS

Google will celebrate independent software developers that build software with its products and services with two days of tech talks from the company's top technologists at the upcoming Google I/O conference. It's the one conference where developers get better seats at the keynote talks than the press. Google will surprise, delight, and throw a couple of haymakers at its competition.

Here are a few guesses, based on discussions with developers who have attended many Google I/O conferences and reading between the lines of the Google I/O schedule. If you want to keep up with the event, you can watch the live stream on May 28.

Google Now could be the best thing that happened to the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch isn't a cure for notification overload. A new and improved version of Google Now is a good bet because the smartwatch market needs an intelligent machine learning system that knows when smartwatches should interrupt with notifications to relieve widely reported user frustration and accelerate smartwatch adoption. Because the current version of Google Now works on Android and iOS, the next version can be expected to be available on both platforms, too. If a new version of Google Now increases Apple Watch sales, it will benefit Google's advantage too, because it will bring Google's ecosystem with it.

Google's Cloud will become very attractive to startups

Amazon Web Services (AWS) leads the pack of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) companies, with Microsoft Azure, Google, and IBM trailing at a safe distance. Google trails AWS in revenues given its late start in the IaaS market, according to Synergy Research.

052115 chart cloud

And according to Gartner, Google trails AWS in its ability to execute.

052115 chart 2

Google doesn't have a large enterprise sales force yet to take on Amazon and Microsoft, which are both deeply entrenched in the enterprise. But Google can dramatically improve its position with startups. Even though Mike Abbot, general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), said at the IDC Directions conference that, except for Snapchat, Google Cloud doesn't have a significant share of the startup market compared to AWS's stable of Netflix, AirBnB, Uber, etc. Google's reputation among software developers will attract startup cloud projects given the right tools and attention from Google's developer relations team.

Google I/O will include more about Docker and Kubernetes container services that simplify the deployment of applications at scale, more partnerships with cloud ISVs, better support commitments, and better pricing tuned to startups.

Android, Android, Android

Attendees will hear more about updates to Android Wear, Android Auto, Android TV, and of course the next version of Android.

Android M will likely be previewed. The last release introduced a new user interface (UI,) Material Design. Android M will have many more apps that use this UI improvement.

It's a good bet that Google will continue to bring more robust security to Android M. More intelligent notifications and even better voice commands should also be part of Android M.

Polymer 1.0 Announcement

There hasn't been much coverage of the Google-led Polymer open source project. Google's component cross-platform development framework has been racing towards release 1.0. Last November, Polymer was just at release 0.5. Now at 0.9, Polymer is on the verge of entering mainstream development. Polymer's swift progress and strong developer attraction is reminiscent of another Google open source project, WebRTC, that grew from concept to wide adoption in just three years.

Built on standards, Polymer makes it easier and faster to create desktop and mobile web applications. Particularly attractive is the ability to build reusable components and the Material Design animation, paper and three dimensional representations in the user interface (UI.)

Material Design update to reach more platforms

Google loves to implement large-scale solutions. Not surprisingly, its approach to a single cross-platform design language, Material Design, scales across all of Google's platforms from Gmail to Android. Over the last year the tip of the Material Design iceberg has been exposed in Android 5.0 and in products like Gmail. It hasn't been widely deployed because established front-end web development frameworks such as AngularJS are just catching up, Polymer – another front end and mobile framework – hasn't reached release 1.0, and Material Design's features aren't backwardly compatible with older versions of Android.

But designers and front-end developers who have worked with Polymer are simply giddy with its features that allow them to build apps with abstract metaphors that give users the subconscious familiarity of working with paper, three-dimensional relationships of objects on a screen, and animations that provide tactile-like feedback. Users will be delighted by the change in UI, but won't know why. At I/O, Google will probably explain its plan for Material Design everywhere.

Google Glass

There have been rumors at wearables conferences that a new version of Google Glass built on Intel's architecture is under development. There is a very powerful use case for a head-worn mobile computer, despite the strong social reaction against such devices. Glass will continue to grow where Google's partners find premium-priced use cases in law enforcement, medicine, on oil rigs, laboratories, or anywhere that it can improve the efficiency of expensive people operating in expensive or critical situations who need both hands free. Reintroducing a new version of Google Glass to the 6,000 developers who will attend Google I/O is the right way to go.

SWAG

SWAG stands for Something We All Get, and Google's generosity abounds when it comes to giving shiny new advanced products to the people who build apps for them. The top pick is a Nexus 6 with a prepaid Google Project Fi account. Another contender is a Nexus-labeled HTC Vive virtual reality headset. Virtual reality appears on the verge of reaching critical mass, brought on by reduced price, increased performance, and applications outside of gaming and entertainment.

There may also be special SWAG items given to special interest groups, such as Android television consoles. Attendees will go home with heavier backpacks if I/O 2015 is like previous years.

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