No Android Update or Nexus, But Google I/O 2013 Was a Success

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Today was the day we looked to Google to blow our minds, to sweep us off our feet with some new, revolutionary product. The Google I/O 2013 keynote kicked-off at 12:00 PM local time, and stretched on for a tiresome three and a half hours.

Between 12:00 and 1:15 PM, we were watching intently – even through the bits aimed at developers that flew over our collective head – for something truly new. We were waiting, wishing, hoping for a new device: a refreshed Nexus 4, a successor to the Nexus 7 or maybe even the rumored Motorola XFON. But as the keynote progressed, with new features and updates dropping left and right, it became more and more evident what this year’s I/O was all about: Google services and apps.

Although none of us wanted to give up hope that there would be a One more thing segment, it was pretty clear after Hugo Barra announced the Google Edition of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and left the stage that it wasn’t going to happen. That the curtain was being pulled on Android and the time for Google+, Maps, Chrome and other services would be the focus from there on out.

all-access

Google Play Music All Access is a subscription-based misc app, available to all Android users on Android 2.2 and up … today.

Many of us, as evidenced by the barrage of mentions I received on Twitter and part of our team on the Roundtable that took place after the keynote wrapped-up, were disappointed by the announcements – or lack thereof – during the keynote. Specifically, there was no new hardware to get excited over, nor the Android update we’ve been dying to get our hands on for months now.

In fact, the keynote was exactly what Sundar Pichai, SVP for Android, Chrome, and Google Apps, said it would be in the Wired interview that went live on Monday. It was focused towards developers and bringing Google’s various platforms and services closer together.

As noted by our news hound Stephen Schenck, Google introduced: new Android APIs, notification sync across multiple Android devices, Google Play games services, improvements to Google Now, Google Hangouts, a new Google Maps app, Google Play Music All Access, context-aware voice search via desktop, an updated UI for Google+ via desktop, and much more.

Not a peep was said about the future of the Nexus lineup, (which a non-Nexus being sold by Google in the Play Store could mean Nexus as we know it is on the fritz). Google was entirely mum on any future Android updates. And Matias Duarte, sitting in the crowd, didn’t even walk on stage for the event. Oh, and lest we forget, no word on the supposed Google smartwatch. Drats!

In fact, only the things Joe and I talked about in our last-minute requests for I/O from last night were even mentioned during the keynote: a focus on developers, Hangouts, and improvements to Google Now.

Yet, I feel there is very little to be disappointed about. The Google I/O 2013 keynote was a success, and I’m content … excited even.

reminders-now

New Google Now features rolled-out without needing an Android software update.

Why? Why would anyone ever be excited over a three and a half hour keynote that hardly delivered anything groundbreaking or innovative?

Sure, I would have loved to have seen new hardware just as much as the next guy. The Nexus 7 really needs a better display, and LTE on the Nexus 4 would be great. And I may be the only person upset there has been no word on another version of the Nexus Q.

But it’s easy to forget that Google is just a software company. Google has experimented with hardware (Nexus Q and Glass), only to break into new software frontiers (i.e.: the living room, a HUD for everyday life, etc.). But they’re still only a software company looking to progress its software.

How does a company do just that? By bettering its services, by converging the experience across multiple platforms and devices, and by creating a better environment for developers to build compelling and innovative apps.

Google kept iterating the importance of tablet apps throughout the entire keynote; Google+ via Web is now just as beautiful, user-friendly, and interactive as it is from a mobile device; The Google Now experience is being brought to the desktop by way of voice search and knowledge graph; and AndroidStudio is a dedicated IDE for Android developers to encourage and help them to develop better Android applications.

That may not be enough to get your flag wavin’, as Michael would say. But to get the true importance of it all, you must read between the lines. Every new feature announced today will be available without any major software upgrades. Think about that, let it set in.

Google Now, Google+, Google Play, YouTube, Gmail, Hangouts, Google Music All Access, Google Maps, cross-device notification sync, Google Play games services, and every other update announced today will be available to all Android users, Froyo and up, without even a small Android point update. That’s more than we can say for any I/O prior, and alludes that Google has finally found a solution for the long unanswered (and somewhat exaggerated) fragmentation problem.

A buddy of mine, Dustin Early of Android and Me, said it best:

Google has developed around the vastly different configurations of Android, breaking down the various walls keeping Google from updating core apps and services that really shape your Android experience. If you were to break down the most important aspects of Android that dictate user experience, you could easily include everything Google updated today, without having to actually update Android. That means that not only will Nexus users experience Android the way Google wants you to, but HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z and Oppo Find 5 users will as well.

I’ve been using Hangouts and All Access for several hours now. My Google+ account has blown up since the roll-out of the new layout. And I’m even considering picking up an AOSP Galaxy S 4 on June 26.

Here and now, all these things may seem boring. But what they will truly impact is the future – better apps, the slow end of fragmentation, and possibly a massive Android update in the fall. And, of course, we’ll see new hardware later this year, so there’s plenty to look forward to.

Not everyone sees it the same, though. Where do you stand. Like Jaime and Anton, are you upset and disappointed? Or like Michael and myself, do you see a silver lining?

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+