What's on tap for Google at I/O 2014

Google Developers Event Held In San Francisco

Don't let its DevCon facade fool you: Google I/O has plenty of interesting stuff for everyone. Most of the company's big announcements come during the day one keynote, which we'll be liveblogging tomorrow morning. This year's theme is "Design, Develop, Distribute," a slogan that doesn't reveal any major clues about what we can expect (aside from the fact that Google is focused on new design, which we'll cover in more detail later). But that's what we're here for -- to figure it out! We've compiled a handy guide that discusses what to expect -- and not expect -- to see at San Francisco's Moscone Center this week. Your first order of business should be to bookmark this link and join us on Wednesday at 12PM ET as we liveblog I/O's opening keynote.

Android Wear

We're not exactly taking a shot in the dark by predicting that Google's new wearables platform will get a lot of attention at the company's developer conference. Ever since it was officially announced three months ago, Google has given devs access to the platform via emulators and fed them with videos on the subject. Two of its hardware partners, LG and Motorola, also showed off their first Wear-enabled smartwatches, and all three companies have hinted that we should expect more details near the end of June.

While we feel safe placing bets on the chance that Wear will get plenty of face time during Wednesday morning's keynote, we're less sure of which hardware we'll see -- aside from the LG G Watch and Moto 360, that is. A Samsung-built Wear device is a solid guess, but what about the handful of other companies committed to supporting Google's new platform (Fossil, HTC and ASUS)? Those camps have been pretty quiet of late, so it's unlikely we'll see a smartwatch from those manufacturers this soon.

Android redesign

Quantum Paper. Sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but it's actually the rumored code name for a new design framework Google's been working on for some time. First detailed by Android Police, this project is intended to offer a consistent user experience on the company's products over multiple platforms, such as Android, iOS and the web. (We wouldn't be surprised if this extended to Chrome OS as well.) We expect to hear more of this project at I/O, and it would make sense to see the new design elements implemented in a fresh version of Android. It's been 2.5 years since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich introduced a completely different user experience; even if we don't see a full upgrade, we'll at least come out of I/O with a much better idea of what the next version of Android should look like when it's ready.

Google Fit

Health monitoring is trendy this year, it seems. In 2014, Apple and Samsung have already introduced platforms that give users the opportunity to gather data about their personal health and provide them with advice on how to improve it. Now it's Google's turn to crank out a similar platform, according to Forbes. Known as Google Fit, the service is expected to collect and aggregate health data from apps and fitness trackers. While it's unclear if this will be baked into Android or just available as a standalone app of some sort, it makes sense for Google to offer a health-related platform for developers and wearables companies. In fact, Fit may encourage more manufacturers to give Android Wear a shot, if Google makes it easy to tie the two platforms together.

Android TV

Television is a tough nut for Google to crack, so the company's next effort in the space is Android TV. It's rumored to be a platform that offers a simple user interface (known internally as Pano) focused on helping you find new entertainment options through recommendations. It'll be similar to the company's failed Google TV in a few ways, but it's supposed to feature online media services and games. Developers will be able to create TV apps that have access to voice input and notifications, and content suggestions will sit on the home screen. Netflix and Hulu Plus are expected to be included, as are several other unnamed services.

Google will face the challenge of courting hardware manufacturers to the platform, especially those who may have had lackluster experiences with Google TV or are currently committed to other platforms (such as LG, which uses webOS on its televisions). Still, any company eager to take on Amazon, Apple, Roku and other set-top boxes may adopt Google's new platform in the hopes of grabbing market share.


Google's Advanced Technology and Projects division is hard at work on two publicly known initiatives: Project Ara, which is focused on building a modular smartphone, and Project Tango, centered on 3D mapping and gaming using phones and tablets. At least one of the I/O sessions is dedicated to the group, so there's a solid chance we'll get some more details about one or both projects during the conference -- and who knows, maybe the company will even reveal something completely new that we haven't seen before, but we won't hold our collective breath for that.

Wild cards

Now, we'll go over a few of Google's other projects that may show up at I/O. First up is the connected-car experience. Earlier this year at CES, Google announced the Open Automotive Alliance. The coalition, which consists of partners like Audi, Hyundai, GM and Honda, was formed to create an Apple CarPlay-esque platform that would let you use your car's dashboard as a control center for your Android phone. It's possible that we'll hear some more details about the project, which is currently rumored to be known as Auto Link.

But what about Nexus? Over recent months, we've heard buzz about a new HTC-built tablet called the Nexus 9, but we've also heard the same thing about a Nexus 8 as well. Regardless, we don't expect to hear much about either device this week, but we won't rule it completely out of the picture either.

Speaking of which, there likely won't be any details about the rumored Android Silver program. With Silver, Google reportedly wants to offer a premium Nexus-like experience with multiple manufacturers in which Google itself would volunteer to help with marketing and development costs. These phone and tablet makers would also get preferential treatment when it comes to getting updated with new versions of Android.

Nest's recent acquisition of Dropcam is still too fresh for Google to discuss strategy or plans of any sort, but don't count the thermostat maker completely out of the picture. The company announced yesterday that third-party devs could now build apps and devices capable of talking to the hardware, so there's a very good possibility that we'll hear more about this from Nest this week. We'd also love to hear more from Google's home-automation group known as Android@home. It was announced in 2011, but has gone largely untouched since it began. Could Nest help tie it in with some of Google's other products? Perhaps.

Lastly, Google Glass has opened up to UK developers (as well as the public) recently, but it's still technically not a consumer-facing product yet. Google's mentioned that it'll arrive for consumers sometime this year, so there's a possibility that we'll see the next version of the wearable and get more details on public availability and pricing.

[Image credit: Getty Images]