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At Google I/O, Android may push deeper into the home

Zach Miners | May 28, 2015
A new version of the mobile OS is said to target low-power devices with little memory.

"I think we'll see a little catch-up from Google" at this week's I/O, said Jessica Groopman, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group.

Google has already dipped its toes into virtual reality. At I/O last year the company showed off Cardboard, a crude but functional VR device that uses lenses to create a 3D effect after inserting an Android phone into it. Outside developers have since made their own versions of Cardboard, along with software for it. Google now offers a software development kit to programmers developing Cardboard apps. With Cardboard, Google may have learned useful lessons that it can bring to more sophisticated VR software.

Google also has Project Tango, one of its more advanced projects to create tablets and smartphones with 3D mapping and depth-sensing technology.

Some lesser known smart glasses makers, like the Osterhout Design Group and Vuzix, which overlay content on the wearer's field of vision, already run a form of Android. But a more formalized Android OS for virtual reality, one that provides a strong link to Google services, would benefit the company more than the modified forms of Android that sometimes appear in other devices, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

Google may have a few other tricks up its sleeve this week as well. A session hosted by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group will introduce wearable technology "we hope will blow your socks off" -- a description Google says it means "more literally than you might think." Is Google to unveil a smart sock?

There are also rumors of an online photo sharing service that would exist separately from the photo service in Google+.

I/O might also see an update to the main Android OS, dubbed Android M, with its own fingerprint login system, according to a report by BuzzFeed. It may also include new ways for users to decide what personal information apps are able to access, said a BloombergBusiness report. The "M" is probably a placeholder for a full name that will follow alphabetically from the current Android release, Lollipop.

There may also be enhancements and new partnerships around Android TV and Android Auto. A couple of sessions focus on helping developers get content from their apps onto Android TV screens, or making their apps more easily searchable there.

Groopman, the analyst at Altimeter, said a critical question is whether Google will be able to clarify how all its different technologies -- including its Android and Chrome OSes -- all fit together. As the company sells more devices and extends its software to more use cases, questions about its influence and larger strategy become more important than ever.

"How will all of these things align into a nice package of how Google fits into our lives in a physical sense?" she asked.

 

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