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8/11/2010
12:53 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Google Debuting New Android Feature August 12

Google has invited media and press outlets to attend a press conference at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on August 12. The topic? Android

The company has confirmed that it will be announcing a new feature for its Android mobile operating system, but provided no hints beyond that. What could the new feature possibly be?

I think we can rule out Android 3.0 Gingerbread right from the get-go. The company said the press conference was worth attending for local reporters, but not worth a last-minute, cross-country flight for New York-based reporters. That means the new feature isn't going to be terribly important or vital.

Android 3.0 Gingerbread will be the last major Android update we see in 2010. It should debut later this year, though Google has been mum on new features and what else might be included. Given that Android 2.2 is just now being deployed to existing Android handsets, it is safe to call chances of Android 3.0 making an appearance on August 12 "zero."

Rather than the new operating system, Google will show off a new feature or new application for Android. Guesses are floating around the Internet today as to what that new feature, application, or service might amount to.

Some believe the event will herald the launch of Google's oft-rumored mobile / streaming music service. I am skeptical about this one. Amazon already makes a fairly decent music store for Android handsets, through which MP3 files can be downloaded over the air. Google has hinted in the past that a music service is coming, but I believe it will be focused more on the desktop experience than the mobile one.

Others think Google will use the event to announce a new Web-accessible version of the Android Market. There is a bare-bones Web-based tool already available for perusing the Android Market, but it mostly stinks. A new, more fully realized Web front for the Android Market would be welcome, but would need to include easy tools for purchasing via the Web and syncing to devices. It's possible.

Google might use the opportunity to wax more poetic about its net neutrality intentions, but I don't believe that will come up until asked by journalists attending the event.

Were I a betting man, I'd put money down on the chance that Google will introduce a video chatting app for Android handsets. A number of Android phones are coming with secondary, user-facing cameras (HTC EVO 4G) that would be put to perfect use for video chatting. Apple's FaceTime app for the iPhone is a killer feature, and one that Google is sure to target. Google already makes video chatting possible within its Gmail Web client and Google Talk. I don't think it would be too difficult for the company to add the same feature to the mobile version of Google Talk.

These are all just guesses, and yours is as good as mine. The press conference is scheduled for Thursday, August 12.

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