Top 5: Highlights from Google I/O 2015


Google I/O is one of the biggest tech events of the year. Each year Google shares with us its vision for the future of technology and computing, and how it plans on shaping that future. Despite primarily being targeted for developers and partners who will help shape that future, Google I/O is also an event that average consumers can enjoy as well. I myself have absolutely no knowledge on the inner workings of software development, but for the past couple of years (2013 and 2014) I've followed I/O with a keen interest. And this year is no different. Google I/O 2015 was just about a week ago, and now that we've had time to digest all the cool new stuff that was announced, here are my five key highlights from the 2-day event.

Android M Dev Preview
For the second year in a row, Google has released a developer preview for the next version of Android, this time codenamed Android M. This time however, Google has a much more detailed plan for updating the dev preview. A new version of the dev preview will be released each month (until the final release), and current dev preview users can get easily update to the newer versions via OTA updates. In addition to that, this year the dev preview has been made available for more than just the current Nexus smartphone. As expected the dev preview is available for the Nexus 6, but also the Nexus 9, Nexus Player, and to many people's delight, the Nexus 5 as well! Android M is not going to be a huge design overhaul like Android Lollipop was, but much like how Jellybean was the polish to ICS, Android M will provide the polish to Android Lollipop. And having a very robust dev preview, which works on several devices and will receive consistent updates until the final release will definitely give Android some great polish.
After L, Android M gets a developer preview.
Google Photos
Google estimates that this year, the entire global population will collectively take approximately one trillion photos. It should come as no surprise then that Google decided to take its already awesome Google+ Photos service and give it its own legs to stand on to bring it to more people. With Google Photos, Google is hoping to help everyone not only store their photos securely in the cloud, but to also automatically organise them into useful categories to make finding them much easier than the traditional way of scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until you find that one photo you are looking for. With unlimited free storage for your photos and videos (up to 16MP and 1080p resolution respectively), and accessibility from iOS, Android, and the web, this service is easily the best available for everyone.
What's not to like about free unlimited storage?
Projects for the future
Google has spent a lot of time, money, and effort on technology for the future. From self-driving cars to internet balloons, Google is always looking at outrageous ideas and figuring out ways to turn those ideas into reality. This year's I/O was no different. Security-focused projects like Project Vault that brings secure computing in a microSD card and Project Abacus which is aiming to kill the need for passwords were unveiled. Also, futuristic input methods like using hand gestures in the air to control your devices with Project Soli or weaving technology into fabric to turn cloth into a touch interface with Project Jacquard. Google's enthusiasm towards futuristic technology is not waning. While many people still think of Google as a search engine, this focus on advanced projects just shows how much Google is really pushing the boundaries between science and science fiction.
Controlling technology with hand gestures is no longer science-fiction. Source
Focus on emerging markets
Google may have a lot invested in the future, but the company is also very much concerned with the present. A pretty significant chunk of the keynote was spent talking about how Google aims to bring a better mobile computing experience to people in developing nations, where average income and internet infrastructure are no where near the levels seen in major markets like the US or Europe. Android One is one of those ways Google wants to bring a better experience to these nations, as it is now available in seven countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and most recently, Turkey. Chrome will now also be optimised to work better on slow internet connections, loading fewer images and streamlining search results to reduce loading times. YouTube and Google Maps will also gain offline functionality so users will still be able to enjoy these services even in areas with poor internet coverage. I think it's great that a tech giant like Google is still looking out for the little guy and not just focusing on the major markets and big tech projects.
Chrome optimisations for better user experience on slow internet connections.
Fun fun fun!
If you were to look at some pictures from Google I/O with no context as to where the images were taken, you'd probably have no idea it was a major technology conference. Arcade machines, pinball machines, foosball tables, playgrounds with see-saws and swings, bean bags, and a whole lot more cool stuff. Google has always been known as a fun company, and with developer conferences like this, you can only imagine how fun it must be to work at the company. It's no wonder the company has been named as the best company to work for for six straight years.

Bear in mind, these are just my highlights as an average consumer and not a developer. For developers, there were many other goodies that Google announced to help them work better. For example, new tools to make better Android apps. Some have complained saying that I/O was "boring", or that Android M isn't a big deal (even though to date, Android Police has highlighted more than 40 new additions to Android in M), but as Mike Elgan so eloquently said, "those are the complaints of shallow and entitled crybabies. Serious developers were thrilled by what they saw and heard at Google I/O.". This year, I/O was more about giving developers the tools to make better software than announcing new consumer products, but that's a great thing. If developers get better tools to make better software, consumers will still be the ones who'll reap the benefits. So in the end, everyone wins.

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