Saturday, June 30, 2012

Google I/O -- Tablets, Drives, and Skydiving Surprise

The summer month's of each year are filled with conferences, trade shows, and announcements. While I was at #iste12 last week the Google Developer's conference was taking place. Since a few teachers have been asking me for reactions, I spent a few putting my initial thoughts down. I will post more of a full review after I have played with some toys and features.

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 is a Google branded 7"tablet built by their partners at Asus. Asus is a great tablet maker (my goto tablet is currently a Transformer Prime from them) and thd throw up a few quick thoughts. Don't consider these reviews...I have a Nexus 7 ordered and will probably be picking up a chromebox and a new chromebook but don't have them e tablet will be the first using the Jellybean version of the operating system which is getting excellent reviews.

It has that great portable size of 7" (remember, I carried a 7" tablet most of last year before switching to a galaxy note. It seems to have most of the sensors necessary to run apps (accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.). Combined with the newly announced offline Maps feature, the GPS is functional even without 3g. Bluetooth functionality makes it work with headsets (skype, hangouts) and keyboards.

The combining of Google's media delivery systems under the PLAY store (Books, Movies, Music, Apps) gives a one stop shop similar to Apple's iTunes and the Amazon's offerings on the Fire. I have never had a much reason to get into Google Play media, but with the announcement of  movies and TV shows and movies, the Nexus tablet is going directly at the Kindle Fire market. It's even priced the same.

I think there is a market for 7" tablets and the affordability is going to make this device competitive. I have often said that the Kindle Fire is secondary/consumption device. Even the interface puts all the media front and center and the apps are a backscreen afterthought (no widgets!). I want to play with the interface before I pass judgement, but this seems to place the media as a widget within the Jellybean interface. The fact that you can attach a bluetooth keyboard or switch to swype or swiftkey also ups the productivity factor (although part of JellyBean is a swiftkey-like predictor).

Full review when I mine arrives in mid-july :)

Chrome for iOS and Android

The Chrome browser is out for the iPad. This includes the tabs-from-other-browsers feature and bookmark sync. On the downside, it cannot be the default (that's Safari and you will say "thank you") and the fruit-company forces browsers to use apple's web rendering engine -- I am getting some feedback that it is significantly slower than Chrome on Android (c'mon Apple. Open yourself up to a little competition. It could be fun!)

Offline Google Docs Editiing

This one is wonderful and at this point pretty much seamless. When your connection drops while you are in a doc, you can just keep working. When the connection is re-established, it syncs. This feature currently works for word processing and should be showing up for presentations and spreadsheets soon.

Google Drive Integration

There were a lot of drive and doc integration announcements that will be bearing fruit in the next few months. My favorite (written about on my Google Drive review) is the integration of the drive as a part of the chromebook file manager (not kidding, a little giddy about this -- it will save 10-15 clicks on blogposts).  With the opening of a new API, we should start to see more "save to drive" features on Apps as well.

A Gdrive App was released for iOS, but it appears to be more of a dropbox competitor, without full-on docs editing (although you can open a doc in safari and edit there). I have a suspicion that we are seeing the surface of a deeper back-and-forth between Google and Apple on this one - with the Google acquisition of QuickOffice, I expect to see some movement on an improved Gdrive app for iOS soon.

Other Quick Hits:

  • The new Samsung Chromebook got some decent airtime (new processor - Celeron, three times faster), better trackpad, Network Jack -- slightly less battery. Chromeboxes are out and tiny (chrome in a box. Thinking of a few for the library).
  • Google released a media streamer with social sharing called the Nexus Q. Love the idea of sharing the playlist/dj duties at a party. Skeptical that I need to spend $300 dollars for something that is not as robust as my Roku, but I haven't played with one yet.
  • Lots of Google+ announcements including a bit of a PR stumble with the new Events feature (Calendar Spam, but already fixed) 
  • On the back end, Goole is launching a web data service (Compute Engine) that could compete with Amazon Web Services. Amazon, to help out the bigG a little, crashed Friday night leaving some people without Pinterest, Instagram, or Netflix -- No deaths were reported, yet.
  • Day one of the show was stolen with Google Glass, the eyeglass wearable interface with lots of early potential (photo, video, sharing, data on your glasses. The skydivers were a nice touch :). This is in very early development -- in fact, the play-around-with-it version for developers onsite was $1500 and that is the only way you could get one.
  • The 3D imagery on Google Earth is pretty trippy. If you haven't looked for awhile, get the update and got to a major city.
  • Jellybean features (since many of you won't see these for awhile): Voice transcription on the device (no more need to be on a network - poor Siri); Google Now - This could be cool. Cards that show you your day, check on traffic, work out your appt travel schedule, etc.; Interactions with notifications (send an I'm running late text without opening messaging)
So that's two days of developer goodness. My take? 
  • I am excited about some things and see a lot of potential in others. 
  • Google needed to integrate the media services to compete with Apple and Amazon on that front and I am glad it happened, but teachers have had decent access to media for awhile.
  • There is a new FIRE coming out and it will be directly and harshly compared with the Nexus 7. Hope that Amazon is up to the task. I am really excited to get this one in my hands and give it a work out. The OG Galaxy Tab is still my middle daughters favorite toy.
  • I think that Drive and Docs may end up being the key for educators. The faster we can have a full cross-platform productivity suite, the better. Keep it simple so that teachers can concentrate on the classroom and the students. Keep it ubiquitous so that students can swtich from class-to-class and school-to-school without re-learning.
Most of this was off the top of my head. If I missed anything major or you really want my opinion on adding heat-symbols to Google Maps, please post a comment or Tweet me. Feel free to share -- would love to close out the month with 10,000 views :)

Fan-droid out.