Yummy little guy, isn’t he? Sadly, while TalkAndroid wasn’t able to attend Google I/O (stupid day-jobs!), we’re watching the coverage closely, and there’s some interesting stuff coming out of the keynote already!
Naturally, most of the early focus is on the Xoom. An update to Honeycomb (3.1) will be rolling out soon, with some nice enhancements. It will give the ability to reside widgets, and app widgets can apparently be updated with just a few lines of XML. It also now has the ability to track faces with the camera, and if two people are in-frame, the Xoom can tell which person is talking and will zoom in on them. Google also announced that many of great features of Honeycomb will be included in Ice Cream Sandwich, which will bring these great new features to devices across the board. It also brings USB Host support for many USB devices, including an Xbox controller which was demoed live at the event.
Also launching is a movie rental service. For $1.99 and up (most movies apparently cost about 3.99) you can rent a movie and stream it to your device. From the initial purchase point you will have 30 days to begin the movie, and once started you have 24 hours to finish it. You can also “pin” movie rentals so they will download in the background and you can watch them offline, perfect for long flights. This service will cross various platforms — you can rent it on your phone, start it on your Xoom, and finish it on your desktop — and will be available on Honeycomb 3.1 this week, to be rolled out for 2.2 in the near future.
And also announce this morning is the long-awaited music service. Google Music will be cloud music storage and streaming. The music service will import your iTunes collection — complete with playlists and album info — and upload it to Google’s servers to stream to your device. Playlists can be created and edited on the fly from your device, and music will be cached once played and can be marked for offline listening as well. This service is going live with beta today, by invite only for the time being.
Google also showed their commitment to updating devices. They are assembling a team that will create and enforce guidelines about devices receiving updates. Including Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T, as well as HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, Vodfone, Motorola (all the key players), this team promises that devices (as long as they are hardware compatible) will receive the latest updates for 18 months after the device’s release. Those of you accustomed to new phones every two years should be pleased with this news, making sure that your devices stays more or less current the entire time you own it.
Looking to the future, the team foresees a world where accessories can work with all Android devices, regardless of manufacturer. To that end, Google is introducing the Android Open Accessory API, which will allow universal accessory compability. While initially designed around USB, they look to Bluetooth. One example they give is having an exercise bike recognize your phone and launch a corresponding workout app automagically. Google is committed to giving developers a path to making great accessories, in a program that’s completely open with no fees. Google would “like to think of your entire home as an accessory,” and sees a future where your appliances communicate with you Android devices, designing an open wireless protocol to let anything electrical talk to Android. To illustrate this point, stage lights are controlled from the Xoom. While this might bring us one step closer to the inevitable machine takeover, I’m on board. Google is partnering with LED lighting manufacturers, and lights and switches will be available by the end of the year.
Project Tungsten is being explained as an Android at Home portal. It features the ability to connect to your stereo and control your home theater system right from your phone. (A nice option, I just bought a Blu-ray player with this capability, but I find I still prefer the remote, but we’ll see what this brings.) This project will completely open to devs, so I’m sure we’ll see some great new things coming from it. Tungsten is creating a world of possibilities for new apps and uses. For example, imagine a situation where you buy a CD and use NFC technology to automatically import the contents of that CD into your personal library, uploaded to the cloud to be automatically accessible from all your devices.
So this is the future Google foresees, and the direction that Android is heading. More announcements are surely to come, and we’ll keep you posted. I/O is just getting started, and Google is now starting to tease new devices (like the Samsung 10.1 tablet, which everyone in attendance at I/O is getting today, lucky devils), so stick around and we’ll bring you more info as it rolls out.