Google kicked off its annual I/O developer conference Thursday in San Francisco, showing off a new version of Android, a VR camera rig, numerous developer resources, and a lot more besides in an opening keynote that took up the better part of two hours.
Senior vice president of product Sundar Pichai emceed the event, which Google says attracted 6,000-plus developers and featured presentations from engineering vice president David Burke, engineering vice president Jen Fitzgerald, Android Wear director David Singleton, director of product management Aparna Chennapragada, among others.
Much of what had been rumored before the show did, indeed, appear on stage at the Moscone Center -- including the aforementioned new Android version, Google Photos, Android Pay and more. But there were conspicuous absences, as well -- Google didn't mention its enterprise-focused products like Android and Apps for Work, nor the rumored Project Fi wireless service, or the Project Ara modular smartphone.
Here's a quick rundown of what made it to the stage on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Arguably the biggest piece of news was the announcement of Android M, or Android 6.0, which was made available to developers today and will start to appear on user devices "later this year."
Android M isn't going to make too many big waves on its own -- it doesn't overhaul the interface design or radically change the way people interact with the device. But it does bring minor but helpful tweaks like granular app permission settings (which allow users to deny or approve specific permissions, like location tracking or Wi-Fi information, from each app), and Chrome custom tabs, which uses pre-loading and deep app integration to offer a more native-like mobile web experience.
As expected, Google rolled out a new mobile payment infrastructure called Android Pay at I/O 2015. It's similar to Apple Pay and Google's earlier attempt at mobile payments, Google Wallet, in that it's an NFC-based system where you wave your phone at a properly equipped point of sale, but it adds an open infrastructure and improved tap-to-pay capability.
Google says there are 700,000 stores in the U.S. that can accept Android Pay -- which sounds like a large-ish number, until you remember that that's only 18% of all American retailers, based on statistics from the National Retail Federation. Perhaps a payment war between Apple and Google will produce a renaissance through aggressive competition, but at the moment, mobile payment still isn't the show-stopper that tech companies seem to think it is.
It wasn't an announcement that sounded like it was going to make a great splash at the outset -- Google largely just removed the photo management features from Google Plus and made them into a stand-alone product. The kicker, however, was the news that Google Photos will offer an unlimited amount of storage for free, so long as your photos are 16MP or less and your videos are limited to 1080p (higher resolutions will be compressed to save space.)
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