Google is gearing up for its annual developers conference this week and analysts say it's time for the company to deliver an ecosystem that can compete head-to-head with Apple.
About 5,500 developers will be descending on Google I/O in San Francisco to hear about the company's plans for its Android mobile platform, social network Google+, cloud platform, Maps application and a new tablet.
Expectations are high as the Google conference is coming on the heels of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this month and Microsoft's unveiling of its new line of Surface 10.6-in. tablets last week.
"I think they have to come out very strong," said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner. "June 2012 has been seeming to come out as a focus around new technologies and around mobile based on what Apple has done and what Microsoft has done with Surface and Windows 8. Google has to come out with a minimum of a lot of new features for developers to embrace."
Speculation is mounting about what Google will announce when the conference begins Wednesday morning.
While Google has said the conference will focus on the cloud, Google Drive, Google Maps, and Android, industry analysts and watchers are hoping there will be some surprises.
- Google is expected to launch its own 7-in. Nexus tablet with a $199 price tag. The tablet is expected to run Jelly Bean, the likely name of the next version of the Android operating system.
- Speaking of Jelly Bean, more details are expected about the next iteration of Android. Code-named for what is likely to be Android 4.1, few details are known about Jelly Bean but it's not expected to be a huge update.
- There's also expected to be news about Google's cloud platform. Analysts are hoping to hear more about Google Drive, the company's cloud storage service, first launched in April. Google may also go a step further and show off a cloud computing platform that would serve as infrastructure as a service.
- Will Google show off its computer-powered eye glasses? There has been a lot of excitement building around the goggles, which Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted wearing earlier this spring. The glasses are expected to be priced between $250 and $600, and will include 3G or 4G data connections along with motion and GPS sensors. They also are expected to have a small screen that will sit a few inches from a user's eyes, along with a camera, microphone and speakers.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with CurrentAnalysis, said he would like to see updates to Google+, the company's social networking offering, but he also hopes to see Google+ more closely integrated with other Google products, such as Maps and Google Docs.
"I'm hoping to see some further integrations with their set of applications, most noticeably their productivity suite," said Shimmin. "It's smart to combine productivity with social networking to try to make this more unified view of the collaborative process. The docs can be an entry point to the social graph."
And while industry analysts and developers also are looking to hear about expected 3D capabilities for Google Maps, Shimmin said he'll be disappointed if the company doesn't talk about greater integration of Maps with Google+.
"That's what my hope has been for Google+ from the get-go -- that it would act as an interface for all these products across the enterprise," he added. "This is a great opportunity."
Blau said Google needs to woo developers more than it has in the past, and provide them with an easier and more enticing way to build software for Google products.
"Developers have a hard time picking Android as their go-to platform because Apple is so far ahead of them in terms of making it easy for them to develop," he explained. "Both companies have great developer support, but Apple makes it a lot simpler. They give developers a lot of reason to program for the new devices. Google, I think, sometimes doesn't. They haven't taken that holistic approach."
Giving developers a lot to work with is exactly what Google should be doing this week, according to Shimmin.
"If the last couple of years are any indicator, it's not so much an event of revelation but an event of momentum," he added. "They're going to get their emerging technology in the hands of as many developers as possible to drive the next wave of development on their platform."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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