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What happened to smart homes, Glass and robots at Google I/O?

What was absent was notable from Google's developers conference

June 25, 2014 10:05 PM ET

Computerworld - Of all the things Google officials talked about during the annual developers conference keynote, the things that had a lot of people buzzing were those the company didn't mention.

The Google I/O keynote on Wednesday focused on Android, wearables, especially smartwatches, Google TV and even Android Auto, an interface that connects to Android phones and gives drivers access to navigation, traffic updates and music.

However, there was a lack of that "wow" factor, according to industry analysts. Google could have easily had that if executives had talked about what they're going to do with the slew of robotics companies they've bought, how they want to turn our houses into smart homes or if they set a date for releasing Google Glass, its computerized eyeglasses.

"If you look at the stuff they didn't say anything about, it's the more 'whiz bang' stuff," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester. "They talked about new SDKs instead of the things that will change people's lives," such as robots, drones, satellites or balloons.

One of the devices many expected to hear about was Google Glass, the company's first wearable computer. Still in the prototype stage, Glass recently went on general sale, and the company on Monday announced an upgraded version of the device with 2GB of RAM.

That lead some to believe they would hear more about new apps for Glass, as well as a specific release date, but nothing was mentioned.

Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, noted that Glass originally was slated to be released in 2013 but Google quietly slid that release date to 2014. Now, he said he wouldn't be surprised if the date was pushed further out again.

"The only thing we can conclude is that the perceived media backlash has been too much and maybe it's just not a go yet," Blau told Computerworld. "I would have expected more developer activity at this point if they were going to release it soon. I would be surprised if they actually did release something this year."

Hammond noted that Google quickly shifted its wearables focus from Glass to the Android-based smartwatches, which received quite a bit of attention during the keynote.

"I was a little surprised that they didn't say anything about Glass," he said. It's kind of the elephant in the room. It wouldn't surprise me if they pushed [its release] back another yea,r but then it wouldn't surprise me if they launched it tomorrow."

Hammond also said some developers were in a breakout session asking for data structures they could use to pass notifications back and forth between Glass and the user's smartphone.

"Google might be giving themselves more time to rebuild the Glass infrastructure to take advantage of some of the things they've built into Android Wear," said Hammond. "It's almost like Android Wear needs to be synchronized with Glass and that may take them a little more time to do."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said he was most surprised that Google didn't mention its acquisition of Nest Technologies, maker of the smart thermostat. Google is expected to use the thermostat as the basis for a new push into a smart home with connected appliances that communicate with each other, and with the home owners' smartphones or wearables.



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