It’s shaping up to be a big week for Android, the Google-driven software designed for mobile devices. At its annual Google I/O conference, Google is expected to detail the latest advances and preview where Android is headed, which reportedly will include a “Smart TV” initiative with Intel.
While Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is best known for its market-leading search engine, the company has cast a wide net of investments in other technologies, all of which are expected to get attention at the sold-out Google I/O. In addition to Android, Google is also at work on another operating system called the Chrome OS, which is targeted at netbooks and similar devices, as well as social media, cloud-based applications and mobile hardware development efforts.
But it’s Android that’s likely to be the chief focus for a large portion of I/O. Google is expected to show a new version of the Linux-based, open source Android for mobile devices — Android 2.2, codenamed “Froyo” — that is significantly faster than the current version 2.1.
The Android 2.2 release is expected to appear first on Google’s own Nexus One smartphone and migrate to other Android devices, like the Motorola Droid, later this year. The speed improvements in the new release are bound to help Google keep its commitment to bring Adobe’s multimedia Flash software to the Android platform — something of a differentiator compared to the rival iPhone. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has banned Flash from the iPhone for a number of reasons detailed by CEO Steve Jobs, including what he said is its slow performance.
A new Wave of software?
The big news at last year’s I/O conference was the unveiling of Google Wave, the company’s cloud-based collaboration system. Google hasn’t said too much about Wave since its beta release and just last month introduced Wave-like collaborative features to its Docs & Spreadsheets applications.
But Wave is on the I/O agenda, including a session on Thursday entitled “Google Wave and the Enterprise Environment.” Wave is part of a Social Web track of sessions that includes Google’s controversial Buzz add-on to Gmail, and OpenSocial, designed to aid the sharing of content between social networks.
Google said it couldn’t provide further details on news announcements beyond the published agenda for I/O, which at this point does not include the identity or focus of the keynote addresses. A number of other sessions on Android and Chrome also lack any detail. The Chrome OS will be at the heart of a new generation of netbooks due out this year that will be designed to run cloud-based services rather than traditional desktops applications.
Several reports indicate Google and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) are planning a joint announcement of a Smart TV platform designed to bring Internet services to televisions. Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) has been an early leader in this area, working with Intel and a number of TV makers to offer widgets for a variety of Web services like sports, financial and weather updates. According a report in the Financial Times, Google and Intel will announce that Sony plans to bring out the first Smart TV powered by Intel’s Atom processor that will include a number of Google services and a way for Android developers to bring their apps to the Smart TV platform as well.
Google I/O starts with a developer’s Bootcamp on Tuesday followed by the main conference of keynotes and various track sessions on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.