Google I/O 2014 is quickly approaching. TechnoBuffalo will have team members down on the ground Wednesday, where we'll be bringing you all of the coverage live. This year is a bit unlike other years and, actually, unlike a lot of other events. We typically have a pretty good idea of what to expect from each event leading into the show, however we're entering this year's event with less solidified information.
Thankfully, we can look to earlier announcements and some less-specific leaks to get a grasp of what might be coming. Is it possible Google is going to announce a new version of Android and a brand new Nexus phone? Sure, that's what typically goes down, but this year we have no indication that it's going to happen. That lends some credence to rumors that Google is ending its Nexus program, at least for now, to instead focus on something called Android Silver.
Also, we have to remember that Google I/O is aimed at developers, not consumers, so a lot of the show is probably going to focus on new tools for app makers and not so much on immediate consumer-facing updates. That said, consumers should be excited about any discussion on Android Wear, because that's already official and we're expecting updates on when we can buy the new smartwatches, and even some introductions from new partners, on Wednesday. Maybe we'll even hear about Android TV for the first time.
It's also totally possible that Google has some Android talk up its sleeves, an update on Google Glass, and improvements to existing software. The company seemingly always manages to squeeze in a few surprises, which always makes the show a fun one for all. Let's dive in now. Again – nothing is in stone, we're just doing our best to read between the lines here and pick out what might happen.
1. Android Wear
Google revealed its smartwatch platform, Android Wear, back on March 18. Right around that time we learned that LG was on board with a new device called the G Watch, and that Motorola will launch a Moto 360 smartwatch.
We're super excited for both products and expect to hear info on release date and pricing during Google I/O. Still, Asus, Broadcom, Fossil, HTC, Intel, Mediatek, MIPS, Qualcomm and Samsung are also Android Wear partners, so it's also possible we'll also see new hardware. The latest rumors suggest Samsung will unveil an Android Wear smartwatch during the show.
Also, we've seen some videos showing off the Android Wear experience, but we hope to be able to go hands-on with Android Wear for the first time, and learn about all of the features it will offer.
2. Android TV
Google tried to get its feet wet in the streaming media market with the Google TV platform that firms like Logitech supported. That didn't go so well, and Google eventually launched its awesome Chromecast dongle. Now, new reports have suggested that Google is ready to give the set-top box market another try with a new platform called Android TV that will build on its previous efforts.
When we first heard about Android TV it originally sounded like Google had its own hardware, but a report in May suggested instead that Google will provide Android TV to partners, sort of like what it did with Google TV. Android TV will offer a window into Google Play, with access to movies and TV shows that are also available on Android tablets and smartphones. We might even see a gaming element added.
No word on when this will hit the market, but we're hoping to hear more during I/O.
3. Android Silver
This one we're not sure about, but it seems important enough to include on this list. Since we haven't seen many leaks for any new Nexus hardware, save for an HTC tablet that isn't expected until later this year, we're not really expecting a new Nexus smartphone. That supports rumors that Google is ditching the Nexus initiative, at least for now, to instead focus on a more premium "Android Silver" program.
Android Silver was first revealed by The Information and is apparently a high-end initiative to get the latest version of Android out to consumers, not just developers, early and with a premium customer service experience. The goal is also to get carriers and OEMs on board at the same time. Some reports have suggested Android Silver won't be discussed until 2015 at the earliest, so it may be too soon to hear about it.
5. Android Updates
Android 4.4.3 is rolling out to devices now, but it's not changing a whole lot. We haven't heard much talk about Android L, or the next version of the operating system that follows Android 4.4 KitKat.
Apparently there's a major redesign called Quantum Paper in the works, but it might be too early for that to hit. Still, it would be weird for Google not to discuss any changes to Android at all – so maybe most of those will be on the developer tool side and not exactly changes that consumers will see immediately.
Also, keep in mind that this is the perfect opportunity to announce changes to Maps, Google Now, Hangouts, Gmail, and all of the other products that are a part of Android. Since most can be installed independently, now, we don't really need a full revamp of Android just to see major changes to standalone products.
6. YouTube Music Pass
Apparently YouTube Music Pass is ready to launch, at least according to the Financial Times, and it's possible we'll hear more about it on Wednesday. We're not sure how this will play along with Google Play Music All Access, but presumably it will be easier to find and subscribe to music videos for specific artists. There's still some controversy around YouTube Music Pass, however, since apparently smaller, independent artists will be blocked from promoting themselves on YouTube unless they sign on to support Music Pass. High profile artists like The Arctic Monkeys, Jack White and Alicia Keys are apparently holding out still, too.
7. Chromecast Update
This is purely speculation on our end, but it seems like it's time for Google to update the Chromecast. We already have a wide selection of apps available, but the homescreen is still pretty dead out of the box, only offering different wallpapers, or access to your photos through Photowall. Maybe Google will add widgets, or announce some top-rated games with support for streaming direct to the dongle.
Google doesn't really need to put too much focus on Chromecast, especially if it wants to build up its Android TV efforts, but we do hope there's some discussion on its future and what we can expect moving forward.
Google I/O 2014 is going to be exciting, we know that much. In past years we've seen skydivers jump onto the Moscone Center with Google Glass, and it's always a fun time of year for Android fans. As I said in the intro, we're still in the dark in regards to what we can expect, but that's also part of the fun.
Still, we think it's possible we'll hear about at least a few of these topics, and we think that Google will have a few surprises in store for us, especially in the wake of WWDC 2014 and before the launch of iOS 8, the closest competing operating system to Android.
We'll be covering Google I/O live, so be sure to check back for information on our live blog, and keep it locked here for all of the news as it breaks on Wednesday.
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