The Shoreline Amphitheater was filled with music and attendees, despite the chilly marine layer that hung in the air. The Google I/O developer conference had begun, and the two-hour presentation was all about AI.
The Focus on AI
The presentation highlighted what’s coming to Google Search, Gmail, and Photos, with AI being the central focus. Google reassured attendees that the company is being responsible with its AI implementation and is taking steps to ensure the technology doesn’t end life on the planet as we know it.
The Absence of Android
What was missing from the presentation was any significant mention of Android 14, which is in beta now and is expected in the fall. In previous years, the next Android version commanded a dedicated ten-plus-minute segment in the keynote addressing new features, but this year, it barely earned a mention on stage.
The Reason for the Absence
According to Sameer Samat, VP of Android ecosystem, as Google has implemented ways for Android devices to receive updates outside of a once-a-year platform upgrade, like Play System and app updates, it’s become necessary to frame things differently. Rather than lumping together a lot of new features in an OS upgrade that will roll out slowly to certain devices, the company is sprinkling features throughout the year as updates to Google Photos or Gmail.
This approach is a good thing as it’s solving the familiar problems of Android’s fragmentation, and Google has more levers to pull now to get feature updates and security fixes to Android phones faster. However, it also means that what’s leftover isn’t terribly exciting.
The Future of Smartphones
The smartphone market has reached a level of maturity where year-over-year upgrades are less exciting than they once were, and Google, along with other device makers, is shifting the focus to the earbuds, watches, and tablets that they sell and how they all work together to make our lives easier.
The Google I/O keynote was as much a hardware launch and AI pep rally as it was a software showcase. Although Android had a supporting role, it wasn’t the star of the show. The smaller sessions later in the day covered Android in-depth, but on the company’s biggest stage, it took a back seat.