This year, the Google I/O developer conference opens on May 15 which is also “National Chocolate Chip Day.” Most developers love chocolate, and I cannot think of a more auspicious start to Google’s biggest developer event ever.
Google I/O is nominally all about Google products with a developer aspect, but in practice, Android dominates the event. And that begs the question: “What new Android features will Google reveal at the show this year?”
In 2011, Google launched a USB library enabling Android devices to connect to hardware-supporting USB “device” mode. Google also announced the Ice Cream Sandwich release that merged the tablet fork back into the phone source base. Although Ice Cream Sandwich was announced at Google IO in May 2011, it did not ship for another 7 months.
Last year, most of the announcements were about hardware. The very first quad core Android device was revealed, but not particularly emphasized. That’s right, although you may not realize it, if you have a Nexus 7 tablet, you have the first quad core Android device! On the software side, the Jelly Bean release (Android version 4.1, API level 16) was announced. Jelly Bean shipped with the first Nexus 7 tablets a few days later.
So what can we hope for from Google I/O 2013? At the top of my list is the intriguingly elusive Motorola X Phone – one of the first products to ship from Motorola since Google purchased the company last year. Google has dropped some alluring hints about the X Phone. It will surely be a Google Experience Device (running stock Android with no carrier preloaded software). The X Phone will come with an unlocked boot loader, allowing developers to install Android firmware updates. It might have a 5-inch screen, running right to the edges of the enclosure, making for a compact, pocket-able device.
The announcement that I’m really looking forward to is the launch of Key Lime Pie. Android API level 18 has the code name Key Lime Pie, and very little is known about its content. Its predecessor, Jelly Bean, was the delivery vehicle for “project butter,” which was a big overhaul of performance, supporting animations up to 60 fps. The project was conceived and executed by the Android engineering team, and delivered to marketing as a fait accompli. The Android marketing team took the finished results and added the oh-so-vital-but-completely-fictional marketing name “project butter.” It was then shipped when Google I/O 2012 opened.
I’m predicting that the Motorola X Phone will be announced during Google I/O 2013, and it will run on the Key Lime Pie release. Further details of the Key Lime Pie features are obscure, but I’m hoping it has great support for haptic effects. Haptics would be something that sets the X Phone above many other Android devices, as well as deliver great end-user experience.
We have approximately 15 weeks to go before Google I/O 2013 opens on May 15th. If I’m right with all three of my predictions – the launch of a Motorola X-phone with great haptic effects and running Key Lime Pie, I plan to end the show the way it began – with plenty of chocolate!
Peter van der Linden, Chief Android Technology Evangelist, Immersion Inc