Many of the headlines that came out of Google’s annual I/O conference in San Francisco last week were related to the company’s major announcements, such as a revamped music store and Google+ network. But there were also several announcements and updates that received very little attention, but may well have a larger impact on Google and the technology industry in the coming years.
This acronym was barely noticed when it came up during Google’s keynote address, but VP9 is of huge importance to Google. It is, essentially, the latest version of a video compression technology developed by Google. VP9 is significant not only because an increasingly large portion of overall Web traffic today is made up of very large video files, but also because much of that traffic originates from Google’s own properties – namely, YouTube. As with Android and Chrome, Google has left VP9 open and royalty-free, hoping that the benefits of reducing the strain of large video files on Internet networks outweigh the potential profit it could generate from the VP9 technology.
Among the many new tools Google has built for its developers, Activity Recognition is one of the few that has the potential to put an entire industry out of business. AR is essentially a set of Android tools that allow developers to build apps that measure a smartphone user’s physical activity. As such, those developers could quickly render standalone fitness-monitoring bracelets and other such hardware obsolete, as users download the same functionality on their smartphones in app form.
Another developer tool, Synchronized Notifications automatically removes a notification from all of your other Android devices once you acknowledge it on one device. On its own, the feature isn’t all that important, but it comes as part of a much broader effort by Google to make the experience across all Android devices smooth and seamless. These efforts include a cross-platform sign-in option that updates a user’s interaction with various apps across all of her devices, and a tool that saves a user’s progression in a video game, so she can continue playing on any other device. The more seamless the experience, Google’s thinking goes, the more likely users are to make all their mobile hardware Android devices.
Google Play for Education
Google’s specialty app store for the education sector is an attempt by the company to tap one of the largest and most under-exposed markets in the mobile world. Not only are fewer companies trying to sell smartphones, tablets and apps to schools and universities than to everyday consumers, but there are also lots of those schools and universities all over the world. Google is focusing much of its energy on targeting schools with limited access to expensive paper textbooks. That many of those markets happen to be in developing countries – where smartphone and tablet sales generally are experiencing meteoric growth – is a bonus.
Google Glass Apps
It’s difficult to describe Google Glass as underrated, given the amount of exposure the device has received in recent months – despite being only a prototype. But there is important positive news for Google about the device it still hasn’t gotten around to selling – major companies are starting to take notice. Even as only a select few developers have Google’s Internet-ready glasses, a number of big-name apps are on the way. These include software from CNN, Evernote and Twitter. Such apps are no guarantee Google Glass will succeed, but the more outside parties decide that the technology is worth building software for, the less likely it is that Google Glass will fail.