Google I/O Kicks Off Tuesday: All Eyes On Android And New-Look Exec Team

Every major tech company in Silicon Valley takes at least one turn at San Francisco’s Moscone Center each year to show off their latest ideas and reinforce their standing among the community. This week, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) gets a shot, likely to highlight versions of its Android software for phones, tablets, and televisions while continuing to push a vision of computing with the Web at its center.
Google I/O has grown significantly since 2008, with the fourth incarnation set to kick off Tuesday. Nearly 5,500 attendees are expected to pony up for access to Google’s roster of engineers, who will present sessions on nearly everything Google, from search to Web application development to browsers to mobile applications. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:
Android: Google’s most successful product outside of search, Android, will likely draw the most attention during the week. The smartphone version of Android has been a rousing success, but tablet versions have yet to create any serious alternative to Apple’s iPad. It would be surprising if Google didn’t address the tablet question in some detail, either through new operating system versions or applications.
Google TV: One version of Android that hasn’t really taken flight—Google TV—has been reported as worthy of an Google I/O slot. First introduced a year ago at this conference and launched last November, Google TV has faced opposition from the big network television companies and confusion among customers who encounter its remote controls. A preview of a next-generation version is expected, but enthusiasm for the concept in general is not strong leading into the show.
Chrome OS: Netbooks bearing Google’s browser-centric operating system were supposed to have been launched last year, but delays forced the project into a mid-2011 launch schedule. Now that it’s May 2011, presumably Google is ready to shed more light on exactly what types of Chrome OS netbooks will launch, and how much they will cost. It will also be interesting to see if Google talks up Chrome OS tablet-style devices, given that interest in the netbook has waned considerably since Chrome OS was first announced in 2009.
Web Standards: Google has used significant air time at the previous Google I/O conferences to urge adoption of HTML5 technologies as the pathway to a next-generation model of computing centered on the Web. This is still very much a work in progress. Expect Google to continue the evangelical call this week, with demonstrations of the types of sophisticated Web applications that are possible with HTML5 technologies.
Wild Cards: Some form of a Google music locker is inevitable, but has the company locked down enough of the details with the music industry for it to surface this week? Will Google Docs finally get offline access? Which Android tablet will Google give away to attendees, the Xoom or the Galaxy Tab?
Context: Google is a company that famously likes to celebrate its failures. That means Google I/O is probably its most celebratory week of each year, considering it has produced such notable failures as Google Wave and Google Friend Connect. As pointed out over the course of the weekend, Google doesn’t necessarily save some of its most winning ideas for Google I/O: Google Instant was announced at its own event last September, for example.
However, this is the first Google I/O with Larry Page back at the helm of the company, and therefore the first chance for him to really put his stamp on the show. Google has been furiously reorganizing its executive ranks in the weeks since Page has taken over, and this Google I/O may give hints as to the new pecking order at Google with respect to the types of projects demonstrated at the show, and the people chosen to pitch those projects to the world.
It’s a week in which all eyes will be on the company that dominates Web search, fumbles with social skills, and provides a defensible alternative to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in the mobile market. We’ll be at Google I/O both days, and will bring you highlights and analysis of Google’s week in the spotlight.


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