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Google has an interesting set of products and device upgrades lined up for the second half of 2014. The following piece focuses on some of the most likely offerings from Google in the near future.
Sometime back, we did a piece on the gadgets and accessories that Apple was likely to release in the second half of this year. One of its chief rivals, Google, also has a fairly large number of products waiting in the pipeline – some of which were showcased at the 2-day Google I/O conference in June. Android-powered ‘smart’ devices, predictably, dominate the list of gizmos that are expected to be released by Google by the end of 2014. We will here highlight some of the stuff you can expect from Google in the coming months:
- Android Auto – Created as a direct competitor of CarPlay, Android Auto comes with seamless pairing properties with all smartphones running on the Android platform. The built-in screen displays maps, directions and other navigation information – while music files and other mobile apps can also be accessed on it in a hands-free manner. Users will be able to make calls via this high-end in-car OS as well.
- Nexus TV – Nothing is known for certain about this one, but for making a mark in the smart television market – Google has to look beyond its under-performing Google TV or the newer, small-scale Chromecast. A powerful Nexus TV would give the company a solid tool to fight it out with Roku and, perhaps more importantly, Apple TV. The set-top box is not expected to have live streaming properties, but would support all forms of Android gaming.
- Android L – Apple has brought in close syncing features between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite – and Google is striving to achieve the same between Chromebook and its all-new mobile platform, Android L (that’s right, it is yet to get its final name). The successor of Android Kitkat boasts of a host of standout features – ranging from the revamped material design and personal unlocking, to better battery backup and convenient Android For Work support. Dalvik has been dropped in favor of Android Run Time (ART), in a bid to ramp up the operational speeds of devices powered by Android L.
- New version of Chrome OS – Given the positive response that the Chromebook Pixel has received in the American and British markets in particular, it won’t be surprising if an improved version of Chrome OS hits the markets before the year is out. The ‘Scroogled’ advertising campaign (by Microsoft) might also give an additional spur to Google developers, to start working on this project. The new OS, of course, has to offer more than the latest Windows and Linux desktop/laptop platforms – to become a success.
- Chromebooks compatible with Android apps – This would end a lingering complaint of Android fans across the world. Professionals from the domain of mobile app development have welcomed the news that popular applications like Vine, Flipboard and Evernote will become accessible on Chromebooks. In addition, users would receive notifications about incoming messages and calls to their Android phones. Google is clearly making a bid to strengthen its Android ecosystem further.
- Google smartwatch – Wearable technology is the new ‘in-thing’ in the smart devices sector – but surprisingly, none of the smartwatches released till date have been that successful. Sony Smartwatch 2 has been a major disappointment, while Samsung’s Gear Fit and Pebble have not exactly set the sales charts alight. Google has plans to grab this opportunity to launch its very own Android smartwatch. The only thing that might bother the senior personnel at Google is whether the smartwatch would provide Glass any unwanted competition.
- New Google Nexus phone – Although Android Silver has been in the news for some time now, Google has no plans to pull the plug on its Nexus line of phones yet. In fact, many smartphone market forecasters and mobile app developers had expected the Nexus 6 to be unveiled at this year’s I/O event itself. Well, that didn’t happen – but there is a strong rumor of it making its debut in the final quarter of 2014. There is no news on when Android Silver would be formally announced though.
- Expansion of Google Plus – With the closure of Orkut in September, Google is all set to give its G+ platform even more fillip than before. The integration with Google Play and YouTube services last year was a clearcut confirmation of this. Users will be encouraged to bring all the Google features and apps they use under the same hood – while Google is likely to keep promoting Plus as a worthy alternative to Facebook too. The last bit has not worked out that well till now, however!
- A Better Chromecast – Apple TV’s AirPlay has received the thumbs-up from worldwide users. In Chromecast, Google has a television dongle that can help it gain a foothold in this sector too. The Chromecast would need a holistic makeover though, with more user-friendly features, compatibility with more Android apps, and better channel availability. Since Songza, HBO Go and Pandora are already available for streaming, it should not be too tough for the relatively cheap Chromecast to find a ready market.
- Making Google Glass available in more countries – The reviews from developers have been mixed, but there is plenty of anticipation about Glass among techies all over the world. Till now, this smart wearable device has been put on limited sales in the US and the UK – and before the year ends, Google would probably make it available in several other countries. It will be interesting to see how Glass is phased out, particularly if an Android smartwatch is indeed launched soon.
- Rollout of Google Fiber – Google Fiber, presently available only at a few select locations in America, can potentially make Google one of the top internet service providers over time. There is a rollout plan for Fiber already in place, and it might well become available outside the USA by December 2014. If Google Fiber is a hit, that would add more sheen to the company’s already well-diversified portfolio.
Representatives from software development and mobile app companies feel that Google is likely to follow an acquisition strategy – to snap up small startups that would add value. The company will surely continue to make its online search feature (that’s Google’s core feature, after all) more intuitive and self-learning. Apple and Google will be going blow-for-blow with a series of new tech products and accessories. By the time this year draws to a close, we will have an idea as to which of the companies is at an advantage.