Google has posted the schedule for Google I/O, the company's annual product launch extravaganza held in San Francisco. While Google tries to keep things secret, many of the session names and descriptions end up being revealing anyway. Here's a list of the things that jumped out at us.
(The keynote this year is only two hours long! How will they fit everything in?)
Design, design, design
As promised, there is a huge focus on design this year, with 11 sessions dedicated to how things look and function. It looks like Google's grand unification across products is a go, too, with sessions titled "Cross-Platform Design," "Cross-Platform Interaction Design," "Cross-Platform Visual Design and Imagery," and "Cross-Platform Motion Design"—there will clearly be a lot of cross-platform designing going on. The "Cross-Platform Design" session looks to be the big one, with the design leads of Android (Matias Duarte) and Google Search & Maps (Jon Wiley) in attendance.
Conspicuously missing from the Google I/O schedule is any mention of Google+, which backs up the earlier reports that the company will be distancing itself from the Google+ branding. Google+ accounts appear to now be referred to as "Google Identity," which is referenced in the session "Grow your app with Google identity." It mentions things like "cross-device single sign-on," a feature of the Google+ platform, but it never mentions the social network by name. The speaker, Jennifer Lin, lists herself on LinkedIn as working on the "Google+ Platform," but the session description says she now works for the "Google Identity Platform."
For comparison, last year's schedule mentioned Google+ 20 times. This year? Zero.
New camera tricks?
"Building great multi-media experiences on Android" might sound like a snoozer in terms of news, but it's the description that really stands out to us. It promises to "look at what's new in the Android camera API." About a year ago, Google accidentally pushed a work-in-progress camera API revamp to the Android Open Source Project. It supported things like camera RAW, burst mode, and removable cameras. While that leak was over a year ago and things have undoubtedly changed since then, the Android camera situation has clearly been a focus for the Android team lately, and it looks like we'll finally see the fruits of that labor at I/O.
Google finally unveils the ART runtime
When Google comes up with something new in Android, the company usually comes out and explains it. There are typically blog posts, YouTube videos, and documentation on the Android site. That has not been the case for ART, or "Android RunTime," which was quietly shipped as a developer option in KitKat. The only official word on the subject has been this tiny acknowledgement in the Android docs, which says that ART is an experimental replacement for Dalvik.
Dalvik is the virtual machine that runs Android apps. When you see Android apps running on other platforms like BlackBerry OS, Linux, or Windows, those products are really implementing Dalvik—it's the engine that Android apps run on. Dalvik was originally built to be small—not fast or battery efficient—so that it would fit on the modest phone storage of several years ago.
Despite this seemingly being a major change to the way Android works—and something that will greatly affect apps—Google hasn't said a word about it.
That looks set to change at I/O, though. There's a session called "The ART Runtime," where it sounds like Google will finally come clean about what it has been building and just what its goals are for the project. The session description says, "we'll focus on all of the improvements we've been making to the Android runtime," so it sounds like we'll be seeing a new version of ART at the show, besides the version that ships with KitKat. We're pretty sure ART can't be updated though the Play Store (wouldn't that be wild if it could?), so if developers are meant to play with this, a new version of Android would be needed!
We would like to have a word with the person who named this session, though—just like people who say "PIN number," "ART Runtime" comes out to "Android RunTime Runtime."
Android Wear versus Google Glass
"Wearable Computing With Google," "Designing for wearables, and "Android Wear: The Developer's Perspective," all scream that, yes, Android Wear will be launching at I/O. With all this focus on Android Wear, many people have started to wonder what will happen to that other Google wearable, Google Glass, but a few of these sessions mention that they are joint Android Wear/Google Glass meetings. It's hard to shake the feeling that the Google Glass software could be replaced by Android Wear, but the Android Wear and Google Glass people will be on stage together saying, "No really, we have two wearable platforms—honest." A surprising lack of TV stuff
If anyone had asked us before this schedule came out about what we would expect to see at I/O, "Android TV" or a gaming console would have been a big part of our answer. We've seen screenshots of a revamped TV platform called "Android TV" and there have been numerous rumors from solid sources about Google launching a living room gaming device. We would imagine these two products would be the same thing—a single, unifying set-top box with Google stuff in it.
The I/O schedule doesn't mention television or the living room once, though. If Android TV were going to launch at the show, we would expect to see a few sessions about building apps for the living room. Android Wear is a great example. We aren't 100 percent certain it will launch at the show, but with a ton of sessions about wearables and making apps for Android Wear, it's a solid sign that it will. We don't see any of that for TV apps.
Google I/O kicks off June 25. We'll have boots on the ground to bring you the latest in Googley goodness in just 40 days.