Impressions from Google I/O – 2013

by on May 20, 2013 · 11 comments

Google I/O Conference in San Francisco

I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to Google I/O this year. Living in Silicon Valley, and having many friends there, I get to visit the Google campus quite a bit.

But I still really enjoyed this event because it represented a great overall picture of what the smart folks at Google are working on and where they are going over the next several years.

Here are a few things that stood out for me; and I hope they are interesting or helpful for you.

The very first thing I noticed when going to the event, was how many people were wearing “Google Glasses”. It was odd to see so many people in these glasses at the same event. I mean hundreds (or more) people were wearing them.

And they are a bit “mysterious” too. What can people do with those glasses? Take my picture, record video, what else?

Google Glass

A friend of mine, Matt McGee, has been wearing them for the past two weeks. He’s a talented writer/blogger and his write-ups have been really entertaining. You can read them here. Google Glass Diary.

Also, Mike Blumenthal put together a great post of the LocalU crowd’s impressions. This is another great read: Google Glass: Metaphor for the Future of Local?

I got to try them out briefly. I was expecting a sort of “heads up display” where the information was displayed over the environment around me. Like this:

Google Glass heads up display?

What I imagined Google Glass would be like…

But it was really more of a square box in the upper right corner of my vision. They felt more like a “proof of concept” or alpha to me.

Google Glass try on

What Google Glass was actually like… not what I imagined :)

But they do light up your imagination. Within minutes of playing with them I was thinking of specialized scenarios where something like this would be pretty cool.

For example, what if Oakley produced ski goggles with something like this built in. And not only could you record your epic ski or snowboard run without that GoPro strapped to the top of your helmet, but you could also call up a map of the mountain you were skiing on and the GPS would tell you exactly where you were. Or where your friends are. Then you could text or call your friends who are on another slope, and get them to meet up for lunch.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other ideas like this popping into developers heads at the conference…

The Chromebook Pixel

The next thing that surprised me is that Google gave away a Chromebook Pixel to every attendee (and there were 6,000 of them!)

At first I thought this was just a low-end netbook or something.

Then I opened it up and WOW – this machine is very different than what I thought. The screen is absolutely gorgeous – even better than the Retina display on my Macbook Pro.

Chromebook Pixel

The Chromebook Pixel display at Google I/O

And it is touch-enabled! So you can scroll around on the trackpad like usual, or actually touch the screen and interact with it that way. Kind of like a Windows Surface, except the screen is not detachable. It was kinda cool and I found myself touching the screen more than I thought I would. Not sure how much I would use this but it is definitely intriguing.

The machine a gorgeous aluminum unibody construction, like the Macbooks; the industrial design is fantastic.

The other thing I had to get my mind around – this machine is not running Windows or OS X. It is running Google’s Chrome OS. This means that everything you do is pretty much inside Google Chrome.

It sounds kind of strange – a computer where you can only use the browser…? But the Chrome Apps were surprisingly good, and I was impressed by how much I could actually do on the machine.

It only came with 32GB of storage (flash, not a physical hard drive) which doesn’t seem like much. But, when you sign in Google upgrades your Google Drive account to 1 Terabyte. Yes, you read that right – one Terabyte. That’s a whole lot of storage in the cloud.

The only problem with my new Chromebook; my daughter took it as soon as I got home and I haven’t seen much of it since 🙂

Google Maps Refresh

I also got to play around with the new Google Maps. I love what they’ve done with the UI here. Basically, they got it out of the way. This gives you much more screen real estate to work with.

And you can tell the maps are vector based now, which means that scaling and zooming and panning happens much faster. It just feels easier to move around in and looks better too.

Implications for local search:
As Matt McGee points out in his article, the new UI only applies to maps.google.com, so it doesn’t really change the Local Search experience, at least yet. But he’s got a really nice rundown with screenshots here: A Tour of the New Google Maps.

This will be rolling out to all Google users eventually, but in the meantime you can signup for an invite to the new Google Maps here.

Google+ Updates and Changes

Google+ is gaining momentum. During the keynote, Google unveiled many new UI improvements and unified all of their messaging apps under Google Hangouts.

Sure, lots of people compare Google+ to Facebook and say it has a long way to go. Why should I invest my time in yet another social network, when everyone I know is already on Facebook?

Well, here’s one compelling reason for you: better search rankings. If you are friends with someone on Google+, your results are prioritized for them. This goes for business pages too. It’s a really big deal, and why I committed to Google+ immediately when it came out.

==> Connect with me on Google+ here

The new changes only make the case for Google+ more compelling.

New new UI is fantastic, and I find myself using it more and more, both on my desktop and mobile devices.

Here is an in-depth look at the new Google+ features.

Hangouts, which is a great feature of Google+, has been so successful that Google broke it out into its own app called Google Hangouts. They’ve also unified Google Talk and Voice so that it all becomes one product now. And you can download Google Hangouts for your PC or Mac, iPhone, Android, etc.

I’m looking for something to replace tired old Skype, and I’ve been experimenting with Hangouts for a while, but so far it hasn’t been up to the task. Maybe the new changes will help. Some of our Expand2Web members like it too, so I’ll be spending some more time with this now.

Photos – Google+ has been very popular with photographers. Many of the early adopters were photographers, and Google did a great job with the way Google+ handles photo uploads and sharing. They continue to improve that experience in the latest updates, allow you to upload your full resolution photos, and automatically enhancing your photos, even making animations out of them.

Take Aways

I came away from the conference with the definite impression that Google is firing on all cylinders.

If you didn’t get to go to the conference, what do you wish you could have seen there?
Do you have any questions or comments about the conference? Please let me know in the comments!

-Don

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Vinny O'Hare May 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Sounds like a good time and very informative.

I don’t see the Chrome Pixel being used at all for photography since it only has 32 gigs of memory. I myself full up a 64 gig card every time I go out taking pictures. Unless it has an upload to the cloud feature directly from the cards or something.

While I like the ideas of the Google glasses use that you see, I just don’t see people wearing them the way they look now.

Reply

Don Campbell May 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thanks Vinny.
That’s a good point on the Pixel. It has an SD card slot, and I think you can upload direct to Google+, but I haven’t actually tried it.

And I agree with you on Google Glass, it’s an interesting prototype, but I think it needs to evolve before being adopted. Did you see this SNL skit about it? Funny!
http://mashable.com/2013/05/05/snl-google-glass-parody/

Reply

eileen lonergan May 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Thank you for this review, I am dying to try on the Google Glasses, I need to see it to believe it. Big thanks for the link to sign up for the Google Maps, that looks pretty awesome as well!

Reply

Don Campbell May 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

You bet Eileen!
And *thanks a lot* for posting that nerdy picture of me wearing Google Glasses to all of our high school friends on Facebook. 😉

Reply

Laura May 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I am glad you went and can tell us all about it. I am particularly interested in Google +, should we be sharing this with all of our clients for SEO purposes? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Reply

Don Campbell May 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Hi Laura,
Yes I certainly think all business owners (and bloggers) should be claiming their personal Google+ Profile, as well as their business page.

This influences the search results of the friends you may have on Google+, or anyone who has +1’ed your business page.

Reply

Jay Wasack May 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Don,

Another articulate and insightful article. You always seem to provide a clear un-biased viewpoint. Thanks for this. I’m now considering a serious look at the Chromebook.

Reply

Julie Larson May 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Excellent review, Don! You really got my interest with the Chromebook! Glad you had a great time and got to try out the Google glass. 🙂

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Don Campbell May 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Thank you Julie – you’ll be hearing more details about it in our Experts Class on Thursday night 🙂

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Jacek June 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Great review as always Don! Thank you for sharing.

Reply

Richard Eaves June 28, 2013 at 2:21 am

Hi Christina,

SEO really does wonders for a website, but keywords inserted into the copy need to make sense as well. It should fit in well with the article and not look like something that was just inserted for the sake of having keywords.

Thanks,
Richard

Reply

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