Google I/O kicks off tomorrow — here’s what to expect

Google has been rolling out news at a steady rate since last week, in what feels like a bit of a last-minute clearinghouse ahead of tomorrow. The company’s already taken the wraps off of news about Android TV, Google Home, Wear OS Assistant, you name it. If this were practically any other company, we’d be concerned that there’s nothing left to discuss. But this is Google. The next few days are going to be jam-packed with developer news and a whole lot of information around the company’s consumer-facing offerings over the next year and beyond. Android, Assistant, Wear OS, search and the like are going to take center stage when the company kicks off the festivities tomorrow at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. You’d better believe we’ll be on-hand bringing you all of the relevant information as it breaks. In the meantime, here’s some of what you can expect from the big show. Android P The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system seems likely to take center stage here — be it Peppermint Patty, Pudding or Popsicle. The first developer preview of 9.0 dropped in March of this year, and I/O is likely to be the launching pad of the next big one. Given how much of Oreo’s changes happened behind the scenes, it stands to reason that we’re in for a more consumer-facing update for the OS this time out. We’ve already seen a bit of those visual updates, including new notifications and some upgrades setting the stage for the nearly ubiquitous top notch. That, by most accounts, won’t be going away any time soon. “Material Design 2” is a buzzword that’s been floating around for a few months now to describe the first major overhaul to the OS’s aesthetic in about four years, bringing an overall flatter and more universal design language to Android. We’ll also likely get some more insight into a gesture-based navigation that takes some cues from the iPhone X. Assistant/Home Assistant has been a linchpin in Google’s ecosystem play for a few years now, and its importance is only likely to grow. Announcements over the past couple of weeks have broadened the company’s Siri/Alexa competitor to even more categories, including Android TV and Wear OS, so probably don’t do an Assistant-related drinking game tomorrow, unless you’re gunning for alcohol poisoning. It also seems fairly likely that we’ll see more devices on this front. A second version of Google Home seems overdue. That could well get an Echo-like update, bringing it up to speed with the rest of the line. And what of all of those Smart Displays the company talked up back at CES? Things have been pretty quiet on that front — perhaps a little too quiet. Expect partnerships galore. The company showed off a Fandango Action just this week — and that’s likely to only be the tip of the iceberg. AR/VR/AI Artificial intelligence has also been gaining plenty of steam on the Google campus. AI and ML have been the driving forces in key offerings like Translate, Lens and, of course, Assistant, which the company is looking to truly distinguish from the competition. The company’s TensorFlow machine learning engine is going to get a lot of attention. Google also just recently took the wraps off the Lenovo-branded Daydream headset, setting the stage for some big VR talk at this week’s show. Of course, the company seems even more content to focus on augmented reality these days. The tech has been a focus recently on Pixel devices, as the company looks to distinguish ARCore from Apple’s ARKit. Now’s the time for the company to really double down on what’s becoming a more and more important piece of mobile tech. Wear OS This is a tough one. Google already revealed some Assistant features for the newly rebranded wearable operating system, perhaps in an attempt to build a little excitement around what, by most accounts, has been a pretty stagnant product category for the company. Wearables in general have been on a bit of a downward trajectory and Google specifically hasn’t done a lot to change that. The company really needs to come in with guns blazing here and reassert itself in the category. Assistant integration will do a bit to help invigorate the company, but expect to see Google do a much better job laying out what the future of wearables will look like under the new rebrand. Google I/O kicks off tomorrow. You can follow along here.

What to expect at Google I/O this week

Google has been rolling out news at a steady rate since last week, in what feels like a bit of a last-minute clearinghouse ahead of tomorrow. The company’s already taken the wraps off of news about Android TV, Google Home, Wear OS Assistant, you name it. If this were practically any other company, we’d be concerned that there’s nothing left to discuss. But this is Google. The next few days are going to be jam-packed with developer news and a whole lot of information around the company’s consumer-facing offerings over the next year and beyond. Android, Assistant, Wear OS, search and the like are going to take center stage when the company kicks off the festivities tomorrow at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. You’d better believe we’ll be on-hand bringing you all of the relevant information as it breaks. In the meantime, here’s some of what you can expect from the big show. Android P The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system seems likely to take center stage here — be it Peppermint Patty, Pudding or Popsicle. The first developer preview of 9.0 dropped in March of this year, and I/O is likely to be the launching pad of the next big one. Given how much of Oreo’s changes happened behind the scenes, it stands to reason that we’re in for a more consumer-facing update for the OS this time out. We’ve already seen a bit of those visual updates, including new notifications and some upgrades setting the stage for the nearly ubiquitous top notch. That, by most accounts, won’t be going away any time soon. “Material Design 2” is a buzzword that’s been floating around for a few months now to describe the first major overhaul to the OS’s aesthetic in about four years, bringing an overall flatter and more universal design language to Android. We’ll also likely get some more insight into a gesture-based navigation that takes some cues from the iPhone X. Assistant/Home Assistant has been a linchpin in Google’s ecosystem play for a few years now, and its importance is only likely to grow. Announcements over the past couple of weeks have broadened the company’s Siri/Alexa competitor to even more categories, including Android TV and Wear OS, so probably don’t do an Assistant-related drinking game tomorrow, unless you’re gunning for alcohol poisoning. It also seems fairly likely that we’ll see more devices on this front. A second version of Google Home seems overdue. That could well get an Echo-like update, bringing it up to speed with the rest of the line. And what of all of those Smart Displays the company talked up back at CES? Things have been pretty quiet on that front — perhaps a little too quiet. Expect partnerships galore. The company showed off a Fandango Action just this week — and that’s likely to only be the tip of the iceberg. AR/VR/AI Artificial intelligence has also been gaining plenty of steam on the Google campus. AI and ML have been the driving forces in key offerings like Translate, Lens and, of course, Assistant, which the company is looking to truly distinguish from the competition. The company’s TensorFlow machine learning engine is going to get a lot of attention. Google also just recently took the wraps off the Lenovo-branded Daydream headset, setting the stage for some big VR talk at this week’s show. Of course, the company seems even more content to focus on augmented reality these days. The tech has been a focus recently on Pixel devices, as the company looks to distinguish ARCore from Apple’s ARKit. Now’s the time for the company to really double down on what’s becoming a more and more important piece of mobile tech. Wear OS This is a tough one. Google already revealed some Assistant features for the newly rebranded wearable operating system, perhaps in an attempt to build a little excitement around what, by most accounts, has been a pretty stagnant product category for the company. Wearables in general have been on a bit of a downward trajectory and Google specifically hasn’t done a lot to change that. The company really needs to come in with guns blazing here and reassert itself in the category. Assistant integration will do a bit to help invigorate the company, but expect to see Google do a much better job laying out what the future of wearables will look like under the new rebrand. Google I/O kicks off tomorrow. You can follow along here.

Without its own phone OS, Microsoft now focuses on its Android Launcher and new...

Microsoft may have retreated from the smartphone operating system wars but that doesn’t mean it has given up on trying to get a foothold on other platforms. Today, at its Build developer conference, the company announced three new services that bring its overall cross-platform strategy into focus. On Android, the company’s Trojan Horse has long been the Microsoft Launcher, which is getting support for the Windows Timeline feature. In addition to that, Microsoft also today announced the new “Your Phone” experience that lets Windows Users answer text messages right from their desktops, share photos from their phones and see and respond to notifications (though that name, we understand, is not final and may still change). The other cornerstone of this approach is the Edge browser, which will soon become the home of Timeline on iOS, where Microsoft can’t offer a launcher-like experience. There are a couple of things to unpack here. Central to the overall strategy is Timeline, a new feature that launched with the latest Windows 10 update and that allows users to see what they last worked on and which sites they recently browsed and then move between devices to pick up where they left off. For Timeline to fulfill its promise, developers have to support it and as of now, it’s mostly Microsoft’s own apps that will show up in the Timeline, making it only marginally interesting. Given enough surfaces to highlight this feature, though, developers will likely want to implement it — and since doing so doesn’t take a ton of work, chances are quite a few third-party applications will soon support it. On Android, the Microsoft Launcher will soon support Timeline for cross-device application launching. This means that if you are working on a document in Word on your desktop, you’ll see that document in your Timeline on Android and you’ll be able to continue working on it in the Word Android app with a single tap. Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s head of the Windows developer platform, tells me that if you don’t have the right app installed yet, the Launcher will help you find it in the Google Play store. With this update, Microsoft is also giving enterprises more reasons to install the Launcher. IT admins can now manage the Launcher and control what applications show up there. On iOS, Microsoft’s home for the Timeline will be the Edge browser. I’d be surprised if Microsoft didn’t decide to launch a stand-alone Timeline app at some point in the future. It probably wants to encourage more use of Edge on iOS right now, but in the long run, I’m not sure that’s the right strategy. The new Your Phone service is another part of the strategy (though outside of Timeline) and its focus is on both consumers and business users (though there is often no clear line between those anyway). This new feature will start rolling out in the Windows Insider Program soon and it’ll basically replicate some of the functionality that you may be familiar with from apps like Pushbullet. Besides mirroring notifications and allowing you to respond to text messages, it’ll also allow you to move photos between your phone and Windows 10 machines. Oddly, Microsoft doesn’t mention other file types in its materials, though it’ll likely support those, too. Going forward, we’ll likely see Microsoft embrace a wider range of these experiences as it looks to extend its reach into third-party platforms like Android.

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RapChat raises $1.6 million to help you make and share your def jams

The first thing to understand about media sharing app RapChat is that co-founder Seth Miller is not a rapper and his friend, Pat Gibson, is. Together they created RapChat, a service for making and sharing raps, and the conjunction of rapper and nerd seems to be really taking off. Since we last looked at the app in 2016 (you can see Tito’s review below), a lot has changed. The team has raised $1.6 million in funding from investors out of Oakland and the midwest. Their app, which is sort of a musical.ly for rap, is a top 50 music app on iOS and Android and hit 100 million listens since launch. In short, their little social network/sharing platform is a “millionaire in the making, boss of [its] team, bringin home the bacon.” The pair’s rap bonafides are genuine. Gibson has opened or performed with with Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Machine Gun Kelly and he’s sold beats to MTV. “My music has garnered over 20M+ plays across YouTube, SoundCloud and more,” he wrote me, boasting in the semi-churlish manner of a rapper with a “beef.” Miller, on the other hand, likes to freestyle. “I grew up loving to freestyle with friends at OU and I noticed lots of other millennials did this too (even if most suck lol) … at any party at 3am – there would always be a group of people in the corner freestyling,” he said. “At the same time Snapchat was blowing up on campus and just thought you should be able to do the same exact thing for rap.” Gibson, on the other hand, saw it as a serious tool to help him with his music. “I spent a lot of time, energy and resources making music,” he said. “I was producing the beats, writing the songs, recording/mixing the vocals, mastering the project, then distributing & promoting the music all by myself. With Rapchat, there’s a library of 1,000+ beats from top producers, an instant recording studio in your pocket, and the network to distribute your music worldwide and be discovered…. all from a free app. Rapchat is disrupting the creation, collaboration, distribution, & discovery of music via mobile “We have a much bigger but also more active community than any other music creation app,” said Miller. While it’s clear the wold needs another sharing platform like it needs a hole in the head, thanks to a rabid fanbase and a great idea the team has ensured that RapChat is not, as they say, wicka-wicka-whack. That, in the end, is all that matters.

Microsoft already published a KRACK fix, Apple and Google are working on it

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