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6/26/2014
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Google I/O: Android Interface, Cloud Advances Star

Day one of Google I/O lacked skydivers but delivered new APIs, tools, and connectivity to push Google's mobile device and cloud capabilities forward.

White House Maker Faire: 10 Cool Inventions
White House Maker Faire: 10 Cool Inventions
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Google revealed plans at its Google I/O conference Wednesday to ensure that Android devices work together more easily. It also delivered on what it said was a big investment in the design and user experience of the Android mobile interface. The unstated goal: make it more competitive with products from Apple.

As a whole, the 2014 event running this week in San Francisco had less flash and more hard work evident beneath the covers than some of its previous developer conferences. There was no sky diver with Google Glasses landing on the Moscone Center roof. If anything, the critiques of Google Glass have brought an elevated concern for the quality of design in Google products. Google this year showed a quiet determination to leave no stone unturned in competing for mobile users.

Google announced, for example, several additions to the user interface in Android L, the unnamed next release of the Android system, with Nexus tablet versions available immediately. With a new approach called Material Design, pixels in the user interface will not only indicate form and color but also depth. Shadows will give objects a three-dimensional air. Shading and lighting highlights will give a real time sense of objects moving through a field of light.

Simple, bold type will be used to label pages, and additional effects, such as a spreading ripple from a touched letter or symbol, will visually reinforce the touch action.

[Want to learn more about how Android Auto will help you drive? See Google I/O: A to Z.]

A series of cards on a screen, representing information sources, can be lighter or darker, depending on whether they are in use, most recently used, or unused. Google is offering "a unified set of guidelines to build a more beautiful, consistent user experience," said Google VP of Design Matias Duarte, sounding more like Apple's Jonathan Ive every minute. His only challenge will be in getting the diverse and sometimes fractious universe of Android developers to adopt them the same way.

The new user interface will also provide for the smooth flow of animations from one Android device to another, such as from smartphone to tablet to laptop.

The user interface is also being updated for smoother device interconnection. Google wants developers to gain the benefit of developing a mobile application once and having its presentation work across many Android devices, from smart watches to phones, tablets, and Chrome laptops, and soon, TV screens. With Material Design, "you will be able to take the same design to different screens," with Android recognizing how a design must change to fit different screen sizes, Duarte said during the 2.5- hour keynote address.

Android-compatible set top boxes or smart TVs are coming from manufacturers this fall, and Google said the availability of the TV's big screen will change certain Android computing experiences. It's one thing to inspect a destination on Google Earth using a smartphone. It's another to show the route to a planned vacation destination on a big-screen TV, with the high-level view zooming over the ocean to a bunch of islands, then down to a particular resort on Maui.

The new user interface will include 5,000 new APIs that will connect Android devices to a broad set of services on the Internet and other devices. One of the new APIs can take a user from a Google search subject to a Google Earth application that offers a visual tour of the search object.

Android L version -- a name like Lollipop will be given to it -- is immediately available to developers for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 tablets.

Thursday also marks the release of the Android Wear SDK for developers who will use it to build applications for wearable computing, such as the three versions of an Android watch expected this fall or an existing LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, available in the Play Store. The main function of wrist computers will be to supply relevant bits of information forwarded from an Android phone, including notifications of calls, messages, news, or social network updates.

But another aspect of Wear will be to use sensors in the device that can be context aware, sending that information to the phone and linking to sources on the Internet that are relevant to the context. With smaller devices, the L user interface is also going to make it easier to move from a local application directly into a Web-based source of information.

During the keynote, Avni Shad, director of product management for Chrome, said, "We make it really easy to move to the Web from applications," illustrating the point by moving from OpenTable to the website

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

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anthemonly
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anthemonly,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2014 | 12:27:36 PM
Re: Google finally shows their real face . . . just fix KitKat first!
As a matter of fact these issues in the Kit Kat releases have existed across the Andrioid spectrum, even onto the Nexus platform (which I was hoping to switch to) from the very beginning (and all you have to do is read the forums to see how widespread the problem is).  In addition there is the meddling of the carriers themselves to contend with as well, no matter who they are.  

Personally I feel they (the devs of any corporate stripe) deliberately released junk in order to make us grateful for software that will work in six months to a year out, software that will leak more personal data than ever before, with the idea being you'll put up with it for a working phone.

Example:  Samsung has added some "security" feature that uploads whatever it wants to directly to them.  This is not something I can opt-out of, but fortunately requires that I say yes by "tapping" the notification on my phone.  I don't know what it is and I don't know how it will be used.  They don't bother to try and tell me either and that by iself is enough for me to say "No thank you."

Hopefully Ubuntu will release something that works the way it is supposed to, without the need to track and record everything I do just for the sake of having it work properly.  Privacy and Consumer needs aren't frivolities to be traded away like cattle at a slaughterhouse for a price.  They are human rights that need to be considered and protected as much as you would a child or a bank account. 
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2014 | 11:49:34 PM
Re: Google finally shows their real face . . . just fix KitKat first!
Do a quick Google search for Note 2 bugs or crash problems. You may be experiencing an issue with your Samsung hardware.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/26/2014 | 3:13:50 PM
Android Studio is getting sophisticated
Android Studio, Lorna, is getting to be a pretty sophisticated integrated development environment. It can now import projects from Eclipse, identify problems in code, red underline inconsistent use of API versions, etc.  I think the Android tool universe is growing fast.

 
zgonzo23
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zgonzo23,
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2014 | 10:50:09 AM
Re: Google finally shows their real face . . . just fix KitKat first!
I wonder if that is really Google's fault. You do realize that Google releases Android and then the manufacturer (Samsung) customizes it and then send it to the carrier and the carrier customizes it again. In short you have three people that have changed that software before it gets to your phone. Samsung is known for making some rather large changes to Android. They are also known to take a pretty good while to make those changes. Add to the fact that all those changes typically in my expereince cause lag and slow downs. I think you might do better to complain to Samsung. I have a phone running on the latest Android and I do not have any problems. The same with at least six other people I know running the latest version. 
anthemonly
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anthemonly,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2014 | 10:38:09 AM
Google finally shows their real face . . . just fix KitKat first!
When will Google fix all the bugs in KitKat?!  My Note 2 never was right BEFORE the KitKat release, but at least Google Apps and WiFi worked.  Now I have 3/4G but GOOGLE APPS CRASHES EVERY TIME I try to use them, especially Voice and Mail.


THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!  Waiting for a new release that will supposedly fix these issues by integrating all their features and adding new layers of security and reporting I have no control over IS NOT THE SOLUTION!  This is like Ford releasing a lemon and fixing it by releasing another lemon the next year!

Plus, the real integration is between the carriers and Google, it is not as if we can just switch phones or platforms to get the features we've come to rely on!  Paying $1500 to $2000 a year for mobile access is completly unacceptable and as a consumer I will not tolerate it.


Maybe Blackberry is the solution afterall, or Windows . . . or from anyone who will release an Ubuntu phone!
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/26/2014 | 10:16:18 AM
Sticks and carrots?
Charlie, what tools does Google have to incentivize that "diverse and sometimes fractious universe of Android developers" to uniformly adopt its new design guidelines? 
Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
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