Google I/O looks to be about more than Android

Wednesday's keynote and several sessions will be shared via live video streams

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Asked what they expect to see at Google I/O, analysts said they believe the upcoming version of Android will include support for smartwatches or other Android Wear devices, primarily by linking Android smartphones and their related apps to Android Wear smartwatches -- probably via Bluetooth.

Several analysts said that Google is likely to reveal health-related app connections to Android, much as Samsung and Apple have done recently.

In addition, Google needs to add a unified way to control in-home devices so it can take advantage of its recent purchases of Nest and Dropcam, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Google needs to say specifically how the new Android will deal with this," he said, referring to the home monitoring and control market.

Smartwatches at Google I/O

Speculation has also focused on whether Google will announce its own Android Wear smartwatch at I/O. More likely: LG will show its LG G Watch on the operating system, with possibly Motorola highlighting the Moto 360 running on Android Wear.

Moorhead said devices from Fossil and HTC will be shown, too. "[Android Wear] needs to show something above the crop of failures like the Samsung Gear if it expects to be successful," Moorhead said via email.

Moorhead wrote in Forbes recently that he has evaluated 11 smartwatches or smart wristbands and has found most wanting when it comes to delivering a broad range of "horizontal" functions. He declared them a "long way off from mass consumer acceptance."

Security wishes for Android and Google

Of five analysts interviewed, four said Google needs to describe ways it will make Android more secure, especially for enterprise use.

Samsung has already built its own set of tools, called Knox, for use with Android. That move is aimed at helping IT managers cope with employees who want to use personal devices for work. So why hasn't Google taken up security issues more directly?

"Security has been a serious problem for Android, and this needs to be addressed before Android is more aggressively banned by companies," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group. "Original equipment manufacturers feel that Google just ignores them and has the attitude that the OEMs ... should just shut up or constrain their feedback to 'thank-you'" since they're getting the code for free.

"Google's disregard for OEMs is legendary," Enderle said, adding that OEMs don't want to go public with their worries because they don't want to get into a fight with Google over security.

"We'll have to keep our fingers crossed that Google makes a greater focus on enterprise-grade features," added Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "Android is the biggest platform and has a big target on its back. There are tons of Android smartphones brought to jobs [at companies with bring-your-own-device policies], but a lot of enterprise groups are saying, 'Thanks, but no thanks' to Android and even with some Android apps.

"Google needs more smart security and enterprise support at the back end and greater communication with businesses," Llamas said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates, said that Google's May purchase of Divide, an enterprise software maker focused on BYOD, could lead to an announcement at I/O about enterprise support.

"Divide ultimately needs to be embedded into Android," Gold said. "Nevertheless, Google needs to make a strong statement that enterprise capabilities will be in the next release of Android, and this would dramatically affect enterprise adoption of Android, which is limited now due to security concerns."

Google has declined to talk about what announcements will be made at I/O.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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