Google has been a busy bee for some time now. The search giant has been making a number of announcements over the past couple of weeks â€“ unveiling new products and giving us a sneak peek into some of its ambitious projects. It has already entered the Tablet market with the all-new Nexus 7 and the next in line is Jelly Bean, the upgraded Android OS with a Siri-like 'intelligent' assistant. It has also done some 'spring cleaning', which usually means shutting down some of its product offerings. Here's a low-down on what Google is up to and what you may expect in the near future.
Get ready for the next Android operating system, which will hit the market soon. Here are the most important updates (according to us):
Google Now: Although the company is not officially calling it a personal voice assistant, Google Now does get the job done. Thanks to this all-new feature, users can ask questions and get voice feedback on the same (similar to Apple's Siri) with additional information displayed in the form of cards. Moreover, it gets you just the right information at the right time (at least, that is what the company claims), which essentially means that it tells you all about today's weather before you start your day, the kind of traffic you can expect on your way to office or your favourite team's score when they are playing. If you are sitting in a new restaurant, it also suggests the dishes you might like, among other things.
Project Butter: If you look past the technical mumbo jumbo like extending vsync timing or adding triple buffering, you will find that Google has made the operating system faster, smoother and snappier. Surfing the Web is also a much pleasanter experience, compared to ICS.
Indic languages: In addition to better supporting Hindi as a text input language, the company has also added other Indic languages, such as Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. What's next? Marathi and Punjabi.
Camera and keyboard: After clicking a snap, users can now preview the clicked image directly from the camera app itself (visiting the media section every time is no longer required). The keyboard, too, has received a few tweaks in the form of dictionary and word predictions (now, the keyboard will know which words to enter next even before you actually type them). Additionally, users will be able to use voice dictation even when they are offline.
Expandable notifications: Notifications can be expanded now, which is a good thing since you can view the content of e-mails and messages directly from the notification center. Plus, users can directly reply to missed calls with messages or e-mail from the notification itself.
Android Beam: An NFC-based technology that enables users to share media like photos and videos instantly, just by touching two NFC-enabled phones together. In Android 4.1, when users start transfers, Android Beam will leverage the Bluetooth for data transfers. This will make the transfer process more convenient.
Resizable app widgets: Widgets automatically resize themselves based on where they are placed on the home screen, the space available and the desired size specified by users (you can expand them if you wish).
Higher-resolution contact photos: Large contact photos can be saved, which is a good thing since low-resolution photos displayed during calls or on other occasions don't look that neat on big-screened smartphones.
But don't be too happy just yet. By the time the Android OS upgrades are actually implemented on your handset, most of the craze already dies down (ICS is the biggest example). Only the people who own Google-Samsung phones like Galaxy Nexus or Nexus S get the OS updates on time (Galaxy Nexus has already been taken off the Google Play store for the upgrade).
Nexus 7 marked the entry of Google in the already overcrowded Tablet market. Of course, we cannot say whether it is a ground-breaking device or not, but most feel that it will definitely give most of its competitors a run for their money.
The Tablet, made by Google in partnership with Asus has a 7 inch IPS LCD touchscreen display (1280x800 pixel resolution) and it will run on the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system (out of the box). It is powered by a 1.3 GHz Quad-core Tegra-3 processor (which is quite impressive) and comes with 1 GB RAM. Users will have the choice between 8 GB and 16 GB of internal memory.
The device features a 1.2 MP front-facing camera for video calling that can also record high definition videos (720p). On the connectivity front, the Tablet has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, comes with a microUSB port but there is no microSD port.
The Tablet has NFC, which means it will have Android Beam. It measures 198.5mm x 120mm x 10.45mm and weighs 340 gm. This one comes with a 4,325 mAh battery, which will provide 9 hours of HD video playback, 10 hours of Web browsing/e-reading and 300 hours of standby time (that's what Google claims). The Tablet should hit the Indian market in October this year.
Going by its US pricing, Nexus 7 should be priced below Rs 20,000 â€“ making it a tough competitor for the low-cost Tablets already available in the Indian market. Of course, it will primarily lock horns with Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Kindle Fire, but other small players like Milagrow, iBall, HCL and mTab will definitely feel the heat when the search giant enters the low-price segment in India.
Also, the fact that it is a Google product will have the edge over its Android competitors as it will always be the first to receive all Google updates and upgrades. Nexus 7 has certainly created waves and if rumours are to be believed, Apple is planning to launch a 7 inch mini iPad by the end of this year, just to take on Google. It will be very interesting to watch another neck-and neck fight between the tech giants, if the iPad mini actually hits the market.
Still in its early stage of development, 'Project Glass' is one of the most innovative ventures by Google. It is a device that enables users to click pictures and/or record high definition videos of what they actually 'see'. To make this happen, Glass will be quite compact in size and Google is currently working on a model that could be clipped on regular prescription glasses.
But that is not all. Glass can be used for viewing reminders, listening to music, reading and sending messages, taking pictures and sharing them, using Google maps, sharing your current location and video chatting (Mission Impossible 2 style). Call us old school, but we are still a little sceptical of a future when people roam around talking to their glasses and sharing information with those.
There are other upcoming features including the addition of Magazines to the Google Play store and Google Chrome browser coming to the iOS platform.
Since the company started its 'spring cleaning process' late last year, it has already closed or consolidated more than 30 products till now. A few days ago, a number of products have been further added to that list. These include:
iGoogle: Google's personalised homepage offering will be retired on November 1, next year (users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data). iGoogle was launched in 2005 and Google believes that it is no longer required as modern apps run on platforms like Chrome and Android.
Google Video: It is a video search engine, which was earlier a free video-sharing site, but nothing could be uploaded there since May 2009. In the coming months, Google will move the remaining hosted content to YouTube and Google Video users will have until August 20, 2012, to migrate, delete or download their content.
Google Mini: Designed for small and medium-sized businesses, Google Mini provided a cost-effective search solution for up to 3,00,000 documents. Beginning, July 31, 2012, it will be discontinued in favour of similar products like Google Search Appliance, Google Site Search and Google Commerce Search, although the company will continue to provide technical support to Google Mini customers for the duration of their contracts.
Google Talk Chatback: It allowed websites to embed a Google Talk widget, so that they could chat with their visitors. The company is killing it in favour of its Meebo bar.
Symbian search app: Will be retired to increase focus on mobile Web search experience.
That is all for now. But do write to us if we have missed out something that you would like to read.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)