Google’s developer meet I/O 2013, held at the famous Moscone Center in San Francisco, last week, rolled out some of the Internet giant’s plans for the coming year. Karthik Subramanian has the details

The annual developer meets that companies such as Google and Apple usually hold coincide with the rollout of new services, revamps of existing ones and the opening up of new opportunities (APIs) for developers. In effect, such developer meets more or less lay the roadmap for the year ahead.

Last week, coinciding with Google’s annual developer meet I/O 2013 held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the company unveiled new experiences for its users — among other things, a revamped Google Plus and a Google Hangouts App for Android mobile that combines Google Talk and Hangouts App. On the hardware front, Google unveiled a new Samsung Galaxy S4 running its stock Android Jelly Bean without the Samsung Touchwiz skin. The device is expected to hit retail stores in the U.S. next month and should arrive in India shortly after. The phone will deliver the “pure Google” experience and it is safe to assume that it would be getting OS upgrades faster than other smartphones.

Hangouts App

The Hangouts App introduced in the Google Play Store for Android mobile phone has taken a long time to arrive. Some are already referring to it as the BBM of Android, but the Hangouts App does far more than just text messaging. The platform agnostic App will unify conversations happening across Android, iOS, Chrome and Gmail. The biggest highlight of the App is that it allows group video chat hangout for free. It was possible in several Apps before but for a price.

A unified messaging App has been long pending from Google and it has been a mystery that has puzzled most techies. Why would a company that had a popular web-based chat Application like Gchat wait so long to enter the game? Most mobile users have been using third-party Apps like Vtok to keep the conversation going on their smartphones.

Google’s new Hangouts App has finally addressed that need. The initial response to the App has been largely positive on Google Play as well as the iTunes App store. The App could also give the much-needed impetus to Google Hangouts that has been gaining some popularity even with Indian audiences, especially with programming like ESPN Cricinfo’s Huddle.

Focus on education

One of the more interesting announcements at the sixth developer meet of Google was the announcement of a new store for education called ‘Google Play for Education’. With everyone from Google and Apple attempting to play a bigger role in promoting tablet PCs for classrooms (in one of his last interviews, Steve Jobs had noted that the next big inflection point for technology would be in school education), it would be an understatement to say that much is expected from the initiative.

Google has said it would be focussed on making Android tablets cheaper and that the Apps on the Play Store for Education would be curated carefully. Developers are expected to submit Apps for this section in the coming months. If this goes well, this year could well be the one in which mobile tablets achieved that critical breakthrough between potential and reality.

Poignant speech

Though the Google I/O was all about upcoming technologies, its most poignant moment came when Google co-founder Larry Page made a very sentimental and heart-tugging speech on the reach of technology. “Technology should do the hard work, so people can get on with the things that make them happiest in life. People are starving in the world, not because we don’t have enough food, but because we’re not organised. And computers are part of that. … Farming is great if that’s what you want to do, but not if that’s what you have to do.”

He pointed out that legislations and regulations were not keeping pace with the advancements that technology made. And this could be an impediment. “We had Google Health but could not make much progress with it.” He however ended his speech on a note of hope that Google could help its users make life-altering choices.