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6/22/2012
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Google I/O Preview: 9 Potential Products

Get ready for Android Jelly Bean, Google's Nexus tablet, and a host of new products and services to launch at Google's developer conference this week.

New Chromebook: A Visual Tour
New Chromebook: A Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Google is preparing to introduce new hardware, software, and services at its annual developer conference, Google I/O, which begins Wednesday.

Google I/O was originally scheduled to be held April 24-25, but last November was changed to June 27-29. The present timing, two weeks after Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, underscores the competition that has emerged between the two companies, each leading players in the smartphone market.

Since Google I/O started, in 2008, it was a two-day event. This year it will run for three days, an expansion that reflects Google's growing developer ecosystem.

Google's past conferences have been used to introduce major products, services, and initiatives, including various Android releases, Chromebooks, Google Music, Google TV hardware, and Google Wave.

More of the same can be expected at Google I/O 2012, though Google presumably is hoping for better results: Apart from Android iterations, products introduced at I/O have underwhelmed.

There is reason to believe that things are different now: CEO Larry Page has worked to make Google more focused, so half-baked code--like the initial Android releases for tablets and for TVs--gets fixed before release. But having tamed its engineers, Google is also less likely to introduce fascinating, flawed software like Google Wave.

[ See how Google is trying to redefine the business computer market. Read Google's Chromebook Gamble. ]

Here's what we expect to see, and some more remote possibilities.

1. Android 4.1, Jelly Bean
Google's follow up to Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, is referred to as Jelly Bean. Until recently, Android developers expected Jelly Bean would be designated Android 5.0. But leaked information about Samsung's Galaxy Nexus suggests Jelly Bean refers to Android 4.1. In the logic of software version numbering, that suggests a less substantial update than jumping a whole version number.

The star of the Jelly Bean show is likely to be Chrome for Android, released in beta form in February.

2. Google Assistant
Google is said to be preparing an answer to Apple's Siri personal assistant. Google already supports voice input in Android and through the browser, but speech recognition isn't so much a service as an interface. Google Assistant, or whatever Google ends up calling its software, aspires to be something more comprehensive.

3. Google Nexus Tablet
Having acquired a large hardware-oriented company, Motorola Mobility, Google can be assumed to have some interest in offering hardware to go with its software. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said as much in December, and at Google I/O we should see the first in what's likely to be a long line of Google-branded hardware: a 7" tablet manufactured by Asus, said to be priced at under $200. Why 7"? Amazon has proved there's a market for 7" tablets. Also, a 7" tablet is less easily compared to Apple's iPad and found wanting, at least until Apple enters the 7" tablet market.

4. Google Compute Cloud
Google has been talking about its App Engine platform-as-a-service for several years. Now, Google looks like it's getting ready to enter the infrastructure-as-a-service business. The company recently redesigned its enterprise website for App Engine under the title Google Cloud Platform. Why do that unless the platform is expanding? GigaOm reports Google plans to introduce a competitor to Amazon's EC2 by the end of the year. Google's developer conference would be the perfect place to announce a beta test.

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