Google I/O 2012: 3 lingering questions

Google I/O 2012: Nexus 7, Android 4.1, Nexus Q

Google I/O 2012 has come and gone and left us with plenty of news to chew on. We've got the Nexus 7 tablet; that little thing called Android 4.1, Jelly Bean; and a home entertainment device known as the . For the world of Android, this was certainly no small event.

But for all its announcements, Google I/O left some important things unsaid. Here are three big questions that come to mind following this year's I/O convention:

1. What's up with Google TV?

Google TV

Google TV has been a huge focus in years past, but at this year's I/O, it got nary a mention (in the keynotes, at least, where most people tend to tune in). The Nexus Q, meanwhile, overlaps much of the Google TV functionality: It allows you to stream video and audio from Google Play and YouTube to a TV and/or stereo system, using your Android device to control the playback.

So what's going on with Google TV? Officially, Google tells me the Nexus Q is not meant to replace Google TV; rather, the two products are intended to exist separately and independent of each other. Google TV is the platform that runs apps and lets you access the Web from a TV; Nexus Q is about streaming stuff from the cloud to your home entertainment setup.

Still, that seems strange. Shouldn't one product be able to do both? Why create a whole new product to do what Google TV can basically already do?

To be fair, the Nexus Q does have some interesting features of its own, like the Sonos-esque multiroom control and the focus on social-oriented playback (multiple users can change songs and add tracks to a single Nexus Q's playlist). But priced at $300, wouldn't it be a lot more compelling if it could also give you access to streaming services like Netflix?

In the end, the Nexus Q and Google TV feel like two halves of a single product -- and the fact that Google TV stayed entirely out of the I/O spotlight makes me wonder what Google's ultimate game plan really is.

2. What happened to Android@Home?


At last year's I/O conference, Google made much of its new Android@Home initiative -- a program that'd allow Android devices to interact with everything from exercise bikes to physical games. Google talked about Android-connected LED light bulbs that you'd be able to control from your phone and tablet; the company said we'd be hearing much more about all that and seeing the first @Home devices by the end of 2011.

A company called LightingScience signed on to create some of those first products, promising a line of Android-powered light items within the year. Somewhere along the line, though, the switch on development seems to have shut off: The company's website now has no mention of Android beyond those initial May 2011 announcements.

In the bigger picture, Android@Home hasn't really been mentioned at all since last year's I/O. The Nexus Q appears to be loosely tied to the idea, but what ever happened to all those other cool-sounding @Home products?

3. What the hell happened to the Android Upgrade Alliance?

Android Upgrade Alliance

Google got thunderous applause when it announced plans for the Android Upgrade Alliance at I/O '11. The alliance was said to be a team of industry leaders that'd create guidelines for how quickly and frequently devices would be updated every time new Android OS versions were released.

At last year's I/O, the companies -- which, at launch, included Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Motorola, and AT&T -- agreed to provide Android upgrades for at least 18 months from the launch dates of all new devices. They were supposed to move forward from there, creating more standards for upgrade timeliness and expanding the number of companies involved. We were supposed to hear a lot more about the plans in the months after that I/O.

Instead, after 2011's I/O, everything went quiet. The phrase "Android Upgrade Alliance" was never uttered again. At this year's I/O, where Google could have provided some insight into the matter, no one said a word; it was as if the alliance had never existed. And, worst of all, not much has changed in most manufacturers' upgrade reliability levels. Timeliness aside, we've seen plenty of outright 18-month-guarantee violations, like Motorola with its Droid 3 (released July 2011, confirmed not to be getting ICS) and its Droid X2 (released May 2011, confirmed not to be getting ICS) and Sony with its Xperia Play (released May 2011, confirmed not to be getting ICS). The list goes on.

So what happened to this well-conceived notion? Did the manufacturers decide it was just too much work -- you know, actually supporting their existing customers and keeping them happy? And why did Google drop the ball and neglect to take a more active role in keeping the alliance alive?

We've heard buzz that Google might unveil a full line of Nexus devices later this year, and that'd certainly be a welcome addition for those of us who value pure Google experiences and the assurance of timely upgrades they provide. But even better would be a broader commitment to reasonable -- even if not Nexus-level -- upgrades from the manufacturers who make the majority of devices. Is that too much to ask for?

Based on the fizzled-out nature of the Android Upgrade Alliance, it appears the answer just might be yes.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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