Google I/O 2014: Will it beat Apple's WWDC by unveiling new hardware?


Google's annual I/O developer conference is about to kick off, with the company looking to best Apple's annual World Wide Developer Conference held earlier this month.

While Apple focused on software for the WWDC, Google looks like it is all set to unveil a slew of new hardware that the company will power up at the upcoming conference.

The main topic of Apple's WWDC was the company's new versions of the OS X and iOS operating systems, announcing OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Apple also released Swift, which is a new Apple programming language that looks to keep developers with Apple as Google's Android and Facebook have drawn them away.

For the I/O conference, Google is looking to counter with hardware as the company has made huge expansions in its product lines.

Wearable technology will most likely be a headline topic in the conference, with Google providing more information about the Android Wear operating system for wearable devices. The release of the first smartwatch running Android Wear is being anticipated, whether it is the LG G or the Moto 360. Google Glass, which is expected to be made widely available to the public sometime this year, is also expected to enter the spotlight. 

The wearable technology space has become an increasingly important battleground for Google and Apple, as growth in smartphones and tablet computers has been slowing down. However, the wearable device market as "the next big cash cow" may need more support before it takes off.

"Unless an ecosystem of apps is there, it's hard for consumers to justify spending money on these gadgets," said Kantar Worldpanel research chief Carolina Milanesi. "These companies have to create an ecosystem that makes the hardware a necessity for consumers." 

Google may also briefly discuss Project Tango, which is the company's interior 3D mapping technology, and Project Ara, which aims to make smartphones modular and cheaper. These devices, however, hold their own events, so details on them may not be as specific.

A new Nexus tablet may also be announced since it has been a year since the arrival of the second Nexus 7. Rumors are pointing to a small-screen version of the device, with reports saying that the new Nexus will be an 8-inch device.

Google is also set to unveil its own television set-top box as it races against Apple and Amazon in controlling the digital content that users receive at home. The device will resemble the Roku, Apple's Apple TV and Amazon's Fire TV. 

In addition, Google is also rumored to be re-launching the Google TV platform as Android TV, despite the success of the Chromecast device. Android TV will allow developers to create apps for smart televisions, which would differentiate it from the Chromecast.

While the focus is on hardware, software will of course still be present at the I/O conference. Software announcements will be headlined by the next version of the Android operating system, which is expected to support 64-bit processing along with a few tweaks in security and design.

Google, which acquired Nest Labs earlier in the year for $3.2 billion, may also talk about its connected-home vision. Nest Labs just launched the Works with Nest developer program, and there will be sessions in the I/O regarding how to create apps for the company's smart thermostat.

Google may also discuss Android in the Car, in response to Apple's CarPlay which will be released soon.

The Google I/O conference will be the last of the major developer conferences this year, giving Google an advantage as it has seen what its rivals have to offer. 

The conference will take place in the same location as Apple's WWDC, in the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco.

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