"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Google IO: Key Notes from the Keynote

Toby Roworth

Jun 25, 2014

It's one of the more exciting days of the year - the Google IO Keynote. This year's had some pretty cool new stuff going on, mostly focussed on the concentration of Android as into a multi-device-class platform, with plenty of other bits of interest.
What follows is a summary, but is still pretty long, and lacks pictures. My apologies, but no-one's forcing you to read it. It might be interesting to read though...
After a rushed journey home from work, I got to my computer a mere 30 seconds before the keynote started. I opened a beer (Badger's Golden Champion) just as Sundar Pichai apeared on stage to host the affair. Sundar is now pretty much in charge of everything at Google - Android, Chome and the other thing that's not search, so must be eyeing up Larry and Sergey's positions! Speaking of which, they weren't present this year.
He announced Android One (or as Rob Bye might call it, IndiaPhone), a hermongenous hardware and software platform for a vaguely affordable phone for the developing world. This came alongside the statistic that 1 billion people actively use Android - that's one in 7, in the world.
Overbearing every other announcement for the first half-an-hour was the new "Material Design" idea, effectively the new Android style guide, that also slips into Chrome, and may well take over search and everything else as well. It's a kind of 3D version of 2D, which is very modern, and looks fairly nice. It also has good support in Polymer, so is under consideration for my new blog design (coming soon, maybe).
The other massive announcement was Android version "L". L could stand for anything at the moment, but the internet has guessed lollipop, probably wrongly. I'm holding out for S to be "Sapphire Jelly", mainly as an excuse to get a picture into this post:

We also see Android getting an intelligent auto-unlock feature, which will probably make it easier for your friends to frape you (or grape for the cool kids) if you're wearing a smartwatch.
ART will replace Dalvik in "L", which means we'll all be running out of space, but will know deep down that our phones are running faster (I've yet to notice a discernible difference, but that might be a good thing).
Project Volta looks at making the battery last longer, which I'm hoping makes it to the Nexus 4, as I regularly run out of battery before I get home. We won't be seeing Android "L" on the Nexus 4 as a developer release, but I'm hoping it will make it as a final release. Hoping really hard, in case Larry Page hears.
And then another big announcement comes - "L" is designed for more than phones and tablets. It all about content awareness, voice control (still seems like a gimmick), seamless between devices and mobile first - your phone becomes the cornerstone of your personal Android ecosystem.
So then we have wearables. Since buying my MetaWatch I'm completely sold on how good smartwatches are, to the point where I'll happily put a screen on my arm instead of a thing with hands. That's something I wouldn't have said a couple of months ago.
Android Wear does both square and circular screens, syncs seamlessly with the phone and is generally exactluy what I'd expect from a smart watch running Android. So you probably don't need to watch the demo, just imagine, and you're right.
Next up was Android Auto, in cars. It's dangerous to look at your phone whilst driving, so voice control and a bigger screen will prevent all crashes ever. It doesn't sound like it'll be retrofittable, which rules out Android on the Rascal, but I'm sure the internet will come up with something.
Next came Android TV, Google's third attempt at doing TV. It looks promising, but so did the original Google TV. Everything shown was nice, but there was nothing too out-of-the-ordinary to report. A nice feature for developers, however, is that the same APK (Android PacKage file) can be used across all devices, meaning a couple of API calls can make your app TV-ready.
By this point, I was pretty impressed with Google's offering's. Nothing massively surprising, but everything looked very nice, and it looks like Google could be getting the the point where Android runs on nearly everything and, by the looks of things, with better integration than Apple, although that remains to be seen in practice.
Cast is selling better than every other set-top-box put together, although this is unsurprising given that it's cheaper than a "decent" HDMI cable. Cast gets some nice magic involved to let friends stream to your TV without needing to be on your network, but I have a sneaky feeling this could least to "Cast Sniping", in which one casts obsurd videos to random people's TVs, in a peeping Tom style.
Chromebooks have been around for three years - much longer than I'd've thought. They now get Google Now, Android Notifications, Auto-unlock if you have your phone with you and can run Android apps. That last one's pretty serious, as it means we might be getting close to the fabled convergence of ChromeOS and Android. realistically it's probably still years off though...
Android L also enables you phone to be used both at home and at work, with safe segregation. Blah blah quickoffice, blah blah everyone loves Google Docs.
Then onto stuff just for developers. Their intro video shows some young girls writing an app to help a blind kid - that's pretty cool - it's nice to see young people get interested in programming, especially women, and even more so for a good cause.
I won't go into massive detail on the developer features, but some bits were especially nice:
Finally, Sundar came back to announce free stuff. Everyone got a Google Cardboard (their latest VR device - search #cardboard) and two smartwatches.
And that was the end. There was a significant lack of Glass (now available in the UK for a mere £1000), but otherwise everything shown was pretty impressive, and it looks like there are good things to come in Android.