Google I/O: Changing the Mobile Gaming Game

Google is holding its I/O conference in San Francisco Wednesday, and expectations for the event are quite a bit different those of last year. The company announced many new software changes and plans to make its systems more capable and easier to develop for.

Developers:

Getting to the point quickly, Google developer Sundar Pichai said in an interview on Wired, “It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system. Both on Android and Chrome, we’re going to focus this I/O on all kinds of things we’re doing for developers, so they can write better things.”

Despite Pichai suggesting that there wasn’t much to look forward to in terms of new hardware, Google investors seem happy with the company. Shares jumped up over 2.5 percent Wednesday, reaching a 52-week high of $911.76 before noon and indicating that investors might have some expectations for the software side of Google’s business.

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As Android is a quickly growing operating system, there were expectations that the conference will unveil the next iteration of the platform. The rumored version 5.0 “Key Lime Pie” could make a smashing display, but others believe that there will just be an updated version of “Jelly Bean,” which will bring the software up to Android 4.3. But even that more minor upgrade could be opening the doors for more software features.

When Pichai took the stage as the first keynote speaker at the conference, he emphasized the ever-expanding world of the computer, noting that they are popping up in more and more places, from phones to cars to other devices. Then, he quickly pointed to the importance of software, noting Android, Chrome, and the wealth of applications made by Google and third-party developers. His rhetoric seemed to constantly call out on developers.

Google Play, Android, and Chrome:

Hugo Barra followed Pichai to discuss various Google Play services. The company has been working to make it easier for developers to integrate maps with 3-dimensional building profiles, and it also is adding enhanced GPS features that will take up much less battery. Lifestyle and health applications could employ the location data to help users track information without draining down too much battery.

Barra also introduced deeper linking between Android and Chrome, where applications could be synced between the two services, and introduced a number of updates to Google Cloud Messaging. In addition, as a big announcement, he introduced Google Play gaming services. The company will handle all connection services for developers to keep latency low and enable improved multi-player experiences. Considering the value of mobile gaming, the increased performance of games on Android could be a major economic boon for Google — assuming that the service works better in the future than it appeared to in the keynote speeches, as it took several tries to get it up and running.

Android Studio was probably one of the bigger announcements for developers. It was designed to make it easier and quicker for app developers to create apps for Android on all different device types and sizes and in all different languages. Improvements to the Developer Console were also shown — including revenue tracking tools, various metric trackers, streamlined translation services, and beta testing and staged roll-out services — to help developers understand how to improve their app’s performance.

Google Play will also be getting an upgrade that provides suggestions to users. This could benefit users by providing more relevant content, but it could also be good for Google’s revenues, as it should make it more likely for users to make purchases.

Taking a break from the seriousness of the keynotes speakers, Google showed off a neat new feature in Chrome for multiple devices. It relied on new web-browser technology that Google has developed. The display showed several devices lined up side by side and a single display was created using each of their screens, allowing the users to play a multi-player racing game together on the impromptu, multi-device screen.

Devices:

Expectations for devices like a new Nexus or Motorola X phone have been reduced. Updated models for current devices could come, but they may not be radical enough to garner significant attention. One theoretically new device was shown; it was a Samsung Galaxy S 4, except that it ran on Google’s own version of Android, wasn’t locked to any carriers, and would receive quick updates whenever the Android OS was updated.

Last year, Google showed off Google Glass. With the product now available on a limited basis — it is in the hands of thousands of developers — the I/O conference could show a lot of big things happening in the development and improvement of the Google Glass experience. However, it seems unlikely that any new hardware for Google Glass will show up at the conference.

Google+:

Google is planning a major revamping of its “Google+” social network. Visually, they intend to overhaul to make it a much more pleasing and engaging experience, adding animation and changing the organization of the display. In terms of what it can do, Google will automatically add special tags that allow users to find more information on the subjects of a post. This could present an opportunity for Google to push or prioritize content and maybe score some revenue from companies that want to receive that priority.

You can follow Mark on Twitter (@WallStMarkSheet) for the latest industry news.

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