Thoughts on Google I/O 2013

Wed May 15, 2013

There were no skydivers at this year’s Google I/O keynote. Nor were there any hardware announcements really, or even a new version of Android. Yet, despite a more subdued vibe, this year’s I/O was more grounded. Rich with developer tools and APIs, this year was a call to action for developers. A smart move. Google played to its strengths today: big data. And what better way to coral the developer community than handing them the keys to it. It was great to see continuing innovations on the UX side as well. Zero-touch natural language search is definitely taking off in a Star Trek kind of way.

And to top it off - a great Q&A session with Larry Page where he riffed on his “Don’t be evil” philosophy and reminded us what a forward-thinking founder he is. I’m not sure if his idealism is trickling down to the rest of the company though. cough google reader cough

So, overall, really cool - but, here’s my wish list for further improvements I’d like to see:

  • Google needs more hardware partners willing to put stock Android on their flagship phones. It’s great that Samsung is releasing a de-skinned Galaxy S4. Now, how about a stock Android HTC One? That would be incredible.

  • We need a bigger push in location services (with strict privacy controls of course). I want to be able to say “Google, where is my wife?” and see where she is in Google Maps.

  • The Google Now experience in my car is, frankly, dismal. There is a major bug with Bluetooth connectivity to a third-party car speaker that Google has yet to fix. But more than that, Google Now should sense when you are in “driving mode” and adjust the UX accordingly.

  • Similar to the above, I want my phone to detect when I am going for a run and launch a running playlist and fitness tracking app.

  • We need even tighter integration with Google’s services - ideally to the point where there is only one access point. It’s confusing that the Chrome browser, google’s website, and Google Now are all separate. I want to be able to type in “Remind me to call Bob when I get home” in google’s search bar in my browser and have that command sync with my phone.

  • Likewise, new services like Google Play Music All Access should be integrated from the moment of release by default. I should be able to search for bands on and listen to them instantly.

Overall, Google should keep on this path of improving their data-crunching algorithms and propagating it to all software platforms. I think they’ve realized that reserving features exclusively for Android is a bad idea. Android serves the low-end of the market as well as a segment of users who like to tweak and customize. But let’s not kid ourselves - Apple has nailed the “clean and simple” experience with their religious integration of hardware and software. It’s wise to court this user base too.

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