Waiting for Google I/O

Google's annual developer conference kicks off this week, and a number of areas exist that the search behemoth must address to keep pace with the rest of the computing industry.

Developer conferences used to be events where a new bunch of APIs, and maybe some IDE updates were enough to satisfy appetites craving new functionality, but these days, anything less than a host of new devices and services is considered not innovative enough.

As Google is set to deliver its annual developer conference where it traditionally lays down its blueprint for the next twelve months, there are areas that the company needs to address if it is going to maintain developer, and increasingly, consumer interest.

Cloud: All of it

It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest that a company that grew up in the cloud, and has possibly the largest menagerie of cloud-based products available, needs to make announcements in the cloud area — but that is exactly the situation that the search giant is in.

If you look at its competitors — Microsoft, Amazon, and even Apple — all have a very clear and definable approach to cloud, be it focused on gaining developers or consumers.

On the other hand, Google has a large portfolio of disparate cloud services, but no overall strategy that can be explained in a sentence or two.

For developers looking to use a cloud platform, Google offerings are much more narrow in the choice of languages and platforms than others; whereas for consumers, Google's cloud offering consists of Drive and Google+ photo syncing. On both of these fronts, Google is far behind Microsoft's Azure and SkyDrive products, and Apple's iCloud offering to its customers.

This week, Google needs to give an indication that there is a common thread to what it does in the cloud. Instead of the current approach which seems to be offering up space cycles of whatever technology and language that Google is using.

Nexus and Android Silver programs

Whether a long-awaited update to the Nexus range of devices is announced, or the entire program is trashed and replaced by Android Silver devices, a collection of new Google Android devices would be welcomed.

Although a new Nexus handset would be out of phase with the company's previous announcement timings, the Nexus 10 line needs an update to avoid withering on the vine, and although less than twelve months old, a new Nexus 7 would fit in with the cadence set by Google in the past.

For folks that are fans of mind-bendingly baffling devices, there's always a chance of the return of the Nexus Q, but that seems as likely as Spain winning this year's football world cup. (For non-football fans, Spain have already been knocked out of the running for the competition.)

Android Wear

Where we are likely to see something new being demonstrated at Google I/O is in the wearable space. The web site for Android Wear currently consists of a big "Coming Soon" sign.

And even though wearables is the latest craze sweeping the computing industry, I'd love to see Google present a use case that didn't consist of simply moving a simplified smartphone interface onto a watch or eyepiece.

As I wrote on TechRepublic last week: "When the only value that a format offers is to shave seconds off taking a more powerful device out of your pocket, it is a format that is looking desperately for a reason to exist."

As for Google Glass, the best summation of the zeitgeist was covered by Jason Jones on The Daily Show recently, where the exchange with a number of Glass 'Explorers' degenerated into an argument over the best feature of Google Glass being access to the smartphone functionality via eyewear.

"But you already have access to everything on your cell phone ... via your cell phone," said Jones.

"Yes, but it's on your eye," came the retort.

I hope that I am proven wrong by Google on this issue, but I expect that Google I/O will feature yet another awkward demonstration of new technology on stage in the form of wearables/wristables that creates nothing but head scratching.

Android CarWear

File this one under "likely to happen" as well. The rumour mill is already buzzing with talk about Google making an announcement at this conference, and the actual name of the product is tipped to be Google Auto Link.

Couple it with likely highlighting of Google's work with autonomous vehicles on stage, and the chances of car-based announcements are high.

Actual developer announcement

Of course, once the shiny announcements are all made, there are still the actual announcements relevant to developers to consider, and to be honest, they are the ones that should be more immediately exciting.

As per most Google I/O keynotes, a new version of Android is due to appear. Even though Google has made progress on abstracting away much of functionality usually contained in operating system updates, recent security issues have shown that Google still has much work to do . To that end, it would be great to see Google come up with a method of pushing out critical security updates in future Android versions that didn't need to go through to the current Google to handset vendor to telco rigmarole.

There's also the slated retirement of the Android's Dalvik runtime in favour of ART due to occur, which should bring a number of benefits to Android apps.

And finally, it would be quite the gift to developers if Google was to announce the general availability of a completed Android Studio, and allow a proper escape from the world of Eclipse.

An IDE environment that would bring Android development up to par with the development environments offered by Apple and Windows, would be the best thing Google could do for the attendees and intended audience of Google I/O.

But if that isn't your thing, at least there will be new smartwatches on offer.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener