Every major technology company has a big, annual gathering of their ecosystem. Apple has WWDC, Microsoft has BUILD, Facebook has F8 and Google has I/O. Next week, Google is holding I/O ’16 in Mountain View and I will be in attendance. Since last year’s I/O, many things have changed in the industry, which sets the backdrop for the event.
Since last Google I/O, on the device side, smartphone growth has stalled and tablets are in sharp decline. China has significantly cooled off too, and Brazil and Venezuela are in economic crisis as oil prices have plummeted. Virtual reality, in what was supposed to be the savior of the 2015 holiday selling season never transpired as smartphone content was limited, and both HTC and Facebook’s Oculus missed their 2015 shipment dates. In fact, Facebook’s Oculus still hasn’t shipped yet. As for home automation, we have yet to see any new product categories from Google’s Nest aside from APIs and low level constructs. Competitively, Microsoft has managed to completely surround Android with valuable apps, services and development tools like Office 365, Outlook, OneNote, Remote Desktop, Cortana, OneDrive, SharePoint, Xamarin and Visual Studio.
Finally, we have bots, those luscious bots from Microsoft and Facebook, which if successful, could suck eyeballs away from the web and mobile search, two Google advertising profit havens.
With that as a backdrop, I think it would be helpful for Google to address a few specific things at this year’s I/O. This is my wish-list and I doubt I will walk away with all these answers, but it is what I would like to see.
- Virtual Reality: Today, there are two kinds of VR, Android smartphone and PC VR. Will we see something in-between like a native Android VR HMD? What is Googledoing to make VR content easier to create for its developers and consume for its consumers and businesses? How much is project Tango integrated for a mixed reality experience?
- Machine Learning: Microsoft at BUILD showed what they’re doing with AI and it’s really, really big with multiple Azure Cloud cognitive services. Google has open-sourced TensorFlow, but what about easy to use and consume APIs for web apps, device apps, and services?
- Messaging as a Service: “Conversations as a platform” or “messaging as a service” was highlighted by both Microsoft at BUILD and Facebook at F8? Microsoft brought a very sophisticated bot platform that exports to nearly every major messaging services with bots including Slack, Skype, Messenger and I expect WhatsApp. Facebook at F8 was really focused on its own service’s bots as you would expect. What’s Google’s play? Any experience that takes away from the web or Android is a risk to Google so they will need to beat them or join them. Google is weak from a share POV in chat platforms, too, with Hangouts. I love and use Hangouts daily in my own business but it hasn’t exploded like a WeChat. Is this where RCS, Jibe, and GBoard fit into the picture? Probably as front-ends to a bot experience.
- Chrome and Android “unity”: With phones, smartphones, and PCs slowing, what will Google do with two distinct operating systems? Chrome is for desktops and is big in the education market, but that’s about it. Chrome is horrible on the desktop as it lacks large apps. Developer resources are split, plain and simple. Is this where they join Chrome and Android? I don’t expect a full connection, but rather another half-step forward in that direction.
- Android: The smartphone market is slowing. What can Google do to stem this smartphone slowdown? Any answers here with Android? More details on N? Android O? Given there are billions who don’t have a smartphone, I expect to see something new for emerging regions beyond what they have announced with Android One and “zero-rating”.
- Google on Windows 10: Microsoft Windows 10 is here to stay as a top 3 platform and I believe could be headed to 500M users by the end of the year. Microsoft apps and services span iOS, Android and Windows. Google is on iOS and Android, but what about Windows 10? I think it’s time to see some of Google’s core apps on Windows 10 like GMail, Google Drive and Hangouts as native Windows 10 UWP apps. I’m not holding my breath on this one as it would give instant credibility to Windows 10 from an arch rival.
- China: Most Google services like Search and Mail are blocked in China, and Play is single digit per cent market share while Tencent Myapp dominates. What’s Google’sChina play? Google is nowhere in China and needs to be at some point.
- Home automation: Google and Nest appear to be at a complete standstill with home automation. Where is Nest and new category products like audio, lighting, security, garage door openers, sprinkler controllers, etc? Where is the lower cost thermostat to increase home automation penetration? Where is Google’s home automation framework Weave?
- Android TV with live TV: The industry has been on a live TV “snipe hunt” for years. Is this finally where we see Android TV with live TV like local news and broadcast sports at reasonable prices? Google could score some points on Apple buy showing up with some compelling and reasonably-priced live TV bundles.
- Networking: What about OnHub? There was a lot of talk about this a year ago, it’s become an overly expensive router, not much else. Where is the whole house audio that they should have by now? (via networking analyst John Fruehe)
I’ll let you know what I hear back or you can tune in yourself to the keynote. If you are going, I hope to see you there!