This year’s Google I/O saw the introduction of myriad new software products, features, and developer tools, most of which fell into three main categories: Android (everywhere), Material Design, and Google Cloud Services.
This year’s keynote announcements were kicked off with a preview of the newest version of Android – the "L" release – and also introduced three new flavors of Android: Android Auto, Android TV, and Android Wear. All of the upcoming Android releases tout many new features and innovations: a redesigned notification system, Trusted Environments, and Chrome tab syncing across devices to name just a few. Each new flavor of Android has its own take on the user interface but they all showcase to the new Material Design aesthetic. The push to have Android run on phones, in the home, and on the road will open up new possibilities for companies and other organizations to extend their digital engagement strategies with their customers.
Perhaps the most pervasive theme of the event, Google’s Material Design paradigm articulates their new unified design strategy and aesthetic for Android and the mobile web. They articulated a vision for how users would interact with the interface as well as how its elements interact with each other.
In my opinion the most compelling aspect of Material Design was the unified approach they are taking for UI on Android and the mobile web. With the updated release of Polymer – announced at I/O and discussed in depth in many of the sessions – teams can build UIs with the Material Design aesthetic which look and behave the same on both Android and using a mobile web browser. This unified approach gives teams the opportunity to quickly build a single, seamless user experience which looks and behaves the same whether the user installs the application or accesses the mobile website. That is a very compelling case for clients and organizations, particularly those who want to support native applications and the web but lack the resources to build separate user interface designs for each device type and form factor.
This didn’t receive the same level of media coverage as the Android announcements, but in the cloud computing market, I think Google made some significant waves, especially with Cloud Dataflow. This is a new managed service offering touted as a “successor” to MapReduce which can ingest, transform, and analyze both batch and streaming data. They also introduced additional services such as Cloud Save as well as made additional price and performance improvements to their other cloud services. Given the range of new services and enhancements the Google Cloud platform could serve as a credible alternative to some of the more established cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Heroku.
This year's Google I/O saw perhaps some of the biggest announcements about Android in the history of the platform. Whereas the conference last year focused largely on other products and on proving that Google could update things (e.g. location APIs) without releasing a new version of Android, this year's keynote was focused almost entirely on Android, especially the exciting new version of the OS.
There were a huge number of Android changes, with the most noteworthy being the change to Material Design. This is a dramatic change to the design paradigms on Android and shows that Google is continuing to place an emphasis on pleasing design. Google made big strides in defining a gorgeous interface and really thinking through all the ways that it interacts with other things. I think it's especially nice that they're going to be introducing the same UI standards on both the web and Android, which will help users become more comfortable with some of these paradigms. And from the standpoint of an Android developer the introduction of new APIs around animation and design should decrease the development time and effort for creating beautiful Android apps.
While this new design paradigm creates opportunities for our customers to get great looking designs faster, there is also some exposure for clients who have existing apps in the app store. These new designs mean that even very new apps will quickly look out-of-date once they're running alongside apps designed with Material in mind.
For me, the most exciting announcements were around extensions of Android such as Android Auto, Android TV, and Android Wear. All of these things create extra opportunities for our clients to interact with their customers and users. For example, our media clients will see more opportunities to get their content in front of users using Android TV, and we'll be able to help our retail clients develop innovative ways to use Android Wear to drive sales both online and in physical locations. And as someone who loves gadgets I'll be excited to get my hands on one of the new Android Wear watches to try it myself.