Google in 2014: Pocket-lint predicts
Google had a successful year, with more profits, more products, rising stock price and a stronghold on the mobile OS market worldwide, but 2014 is on the horizon, so what's in store for the next 12 months?
Here are our predictions for what to expect from Google in the new year. Please bear in mind that these are predictions based on everything we’ve seen and heard within the industry in 2013 - so don’t be surprised if Google changes its course drastically or scraps some of its plans.
That said, let's speculate.
A Gigaom report in October noted that Google might soon cease using the Google TV label and require all new devices to be rebranded as "Android TV". Since mid-2013, Google TV manufacturers including Sony and LG have stopped using "Google TV" branding, hinting an announcement may be coming soon.
An official Android TV announcement is yet to be made by Google, as the company has struggled getting the Google TV platform off the ground, but it cold come in 2014. The move to Android TV could potentially allow manufacturers to add custom software on top of an Android-based TV software, much like it does with the operating system on phones and tablets. Android TV within Android 4.4 KitKat was previously tipped.
There are two logical places to announce Android TV, if it does indeed come to market: CES 2014 in January or Google I/O in May.
Google is notorious for making Google TV announcements at the tradeshow in Las Vegas during early January, so we may see Android TV there. If Google TV isn't discussed during the that show, then it may be a great sign of an Android TV announcement for later in the year.
Although it was released in 2013, the Chromecast's time to shine will be 2014. The low-cost media streaming dongle will be made available internationally, rather than sparsely in the US and UK during the next year.
Google vice-president of product Mario Queiroz told Gigaom: “We are going to be launching in a number of international markets." He added that people would be “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of this international expansion.
READ: Chromecast review
Furthermore, the Chromecast team will be opening up its SDK to make hundreds (if not thousands) of apps Chromecast-compatible. This push started in 2013 with the Netflix app, letting users push content from their mobile phone to TV at the press of a button. Google will also be partnering with consumer electronics companies to bring 'cast functionality to other devices in 2014.
It will be a big push for a larger audience. Developers will then see the media platform as an area of focus when adding features to their apps.
Tech news publication The Information, which cited an anonymous Google employee, reported in December that Google will unveil a "Nexus TV" device in 2014. Perhaps running the Android TV. It will stream video content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc, and play video games. It won't support live broadcast like the Xbox One's media functionality, but it will be "aggressively priced".
Google's Andy Rubin reportedly gave private demonstrations of the prototype at CES 2013, showing off its Android OS and Hangouts functionality as core features. The box notably had a video camera and motion sensor and was originally rumoured to launch at Google I/O in 2013, but Google decided to show the Chromecast instead.
Could Google I/O in May 2014 be the Nexus TV's launch event?
Android past the smartphone and tablet
We're expecting a resurgence beyond the smartphone and tablet, and into the wearables space for Google. Samsung kicked things off on the Android side with the Galaxy Gear in 2013 and other manufacturers are expected to follow the company's lead in order to tackle the new market.
In March, the Financial Times reported that Google's Android division was working on its own smartwatch, more than likely in the Nexus program. Later in the year, 9to5google added to the speculation, saying a Google "Gem" smartwatch was coming. It will reportedly feature at-a-glance Google Now-like information tiles and Bluetooth 4.0 to take advantage of your phone's brains and give it the best battery life possible.
The Chromebook saw its first high-end model during 2013 with Google's Chrome Pixel, but 2014 will be a year of aiming for the budget crowd.
Chrome OS is built for lightweight machines. It allows manufacturers to keep down the price and still bring enough processing power for users to get work done.
Asus has already confirmed it will get in on the Chromebook market during 2014. We suspect Samsung, Asus, LG, Acer and HP will continue targeting schools and customers on a budget during the new year - probably with a focus on cheap touchscreens too.
READ: Chrome Pixel review
The Chromebook platform struggles to gain marketshare, however. According to IDC numbers this week, the Chromebook market sat at 1 per cent of all shipped PCs and tablets in Q3 2013. Samsung led the way with roughly 652,000 Chromebooks shipped, and other vendors represented "tiny volume".
Could 2014 be the Chromebook's year?
Next-generation Google Glass for the public
Google Glass has been available for members of the "Explorer" program - those who paid $1,500 to check out the technology early - during 2013. Google plans to expand its wearables program in the new year with a Glass product aimed at the masses, and at a reasonable price point between $200-$600.
In April, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said: "Well, the developers are beginning now. It would be fair to say that there will be thousands of these in use by developers over the next months and based on their feedback we'll make some product changes and it's probably a year-ish away."
Google has been making major changes to Google Glass in the latter part of 2013, including the announcement of prescription lenses, an earbud accessory, several software enhancements, and a second version of Google Glass with small changes that Explorers can get for free.
Second-generation Nexus 10
The second-generation Nexus 10 was believed to be launching in autumn of 2013, but it never came. Now we suspect that the Asus-made product will be launched in 2014.
An earlier blip on Google Play told of a 10-inch screen at a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution for 300ppi, a customary Snapdragon 800 chipset along with a hefty 3GB of RAM, 8-megapixel rear-camera, 2.1-megapixel front-camera, and a whopping 9,000mAh battery.
The 16GB version of the current Nexus 10 made by Samsung has seen its stock dwindle to non-existent in recent months. Usually, along with a new product launch, a company will drain the stock to make way for the new product.
Advancing voice search
Speaking to Computerworld, Google spokesperson Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi said Google had plans to focus on voice search in 2014. It not only wants to refine its search product on Android, but also to bring voice search in its Google app on iOS up to par with the Android platform.
"We're pretty close to par with Android," said Radosavljevic-Szilagyi. "On Android, we're also improving search all the time. Ultimately, we want people to be able to use search on both platforms the same way."
Google made big changes to its voice product in 2013, advancing Google Now to become one of the best performing voice assistants in the industry. Additionally, the Moto X brought Touchless Control, allowing users to say "OK Google" or "Ok Google (Now)" and then either execute the command or send the request to Google Voice Search, even with the handset's display off.
The feature then extended to Android 4.4 KitKat for even more handsets.
But Google still has further plans. "The interaction should become more natural," Radosavljevic-Szilagyi said. "With the growth in mobile, voice just becomes more natural."