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Google I/O 2016: What to expect from Google's epic developer's conference

Florence Ion | May 17, 2016
Android N and virtual reality will surely be hot topics of discussion, but how much will Google's new conference venue influence the company's biggest event of the year?

There’s big change on the horizon for Google I/O. The venue for this year’s annual developer’s conference, Shoreline Amphitheater, is not only bigger than past event spaces, it’s also located smack-dab in the middle of the Silicon Valley, wedged right in between NASA Ames and Google’s own headquarters in Mountain View.

But it’s not just the venue that’s changed. At this year’s I/O, Google will present itself as a branch of its parent company, Alphabet, rather than its own all-encompassing entity. And while there may be plenty of sessions devoted to Android development across phones, the living room, and auto, they’ll sit alongside other workshops covering Google’s peripheral projects. Indeed, the focus on virtual reality looks to be intense.

So, what can you expect from this year’s massive developers conference? Let’s explore.

Android N: Tell us more

androidn 
Android N will definitely be a star of the keynote, but it’s doubtful we’ll hear anything about what its official name name is until its launch. Credit: Google

What we already know: In years past, Google has waited until hours after the Google I/O keynote to release the first version of Android’s newest preview build. This year, however, Google launched an alpha preview version of Android N before attendees had even secured their badges for the conference. 

We know that Android N features a split-screen mode for productivity scenarios, and that there’s code for a floating window mode, along with mouse support. Android N will also introduce minor tweaks, such as an updated notification panel and a “night mode” that dims the screen when it’s dark.

And with last month’s update, we learned that Android N will have built-in support for virtual reality and the Vulkan graphics API, which will be significant for gamers once developers start taking advantage of that code. Google will continue to seed updates to those who have opted into the Android N preview program every month until the system’s official release in Q3 2016.

What Google could reveal: There’s got to be more to Android than just a few minor feature updates and the inclusion of gamer-friendly APIs and software tweaks, right? So this year we expect Google’s Android announcements will be more focused on offering a glimpse into the future. What we see at I/O next week may not be baked into Android N, but we still hope to be dazzled.

A report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that there’s a Chrome OS and Android merger on the horizon. It sounds far-fetched, but with Android N’s secret floating window mode, and the Pixel C’s mere existence, Google may attempt to make a major play for productivity-focused users by merging its desktop and mobile OSes.

 

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