Google Rolls Out A Raft Of Developer Enhancements At I/O 2013 Conference

With about 6,000 people jamming the conference room to capacity, Google executives summarized a far-reaching series of enhancements, new features and capabilities that are intended to increase the value of the company's services and also pose new opportunities for developers.

"Seven years ago, smartphones led to an explosion of devices," said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president, Android, Chrome and Applications. "They had a profound effect on day-to-day life. It's a multiscreened world now, and thousands of third-party apps are being created."

New developer tools include Android Studio, which is designed for simplified development, with features such as preview panes, plus the ability to see what prospective layouts would look like under differing screen sizes.

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"I think this was one of their most important announcements," said Wes Deglise, co-founder of Kilo-App, a Washington, D.C.-based developer. "I'm accustomed to working with Eclipse, which is the predecessor to Studio, but I like the feature set of the new one, so I'll be willing to adopt it."

In addition, a number of new features have been added to the Android Developers Console, including optimization tips, a new language translation service, referral tracking, usage metrics, and enhanced beta testing capabilities.

Google Cloud Messaging, which was announced last year, pushes data to all of the user devices. The system now supports persistent connections that dynamically send messages to various devices, upstream message capabilities that augment the ability to send data from devices to servers, and synchronized notifications across multiple devices.

Google Maps APIs will now include a "Fused Location Provider" through which locations are faster and easier to acquire, while at the same time uses less battery power. Activity recognition tracks users' physical activities, specifically walking, running or driving.

The company also is extending the ability to launch search through voice queries and similar interactions, including the ability for the search engine to try to anticipate the user's next question.

NEXT: Leveraging Data Toward Context

"All the things they launched were about leveraging their massive amount of data in order to deliver services that are more contextual," said Jon Gottfried, developer evangelist at Twillo Cloud Communications of San Francisco. "This is very important to developers because we can use that in a lot of different ways. You'll see new features and applications coming out of all this."

On the recreational front, Google Play game services will now include CloudSave, which enables users to save game data across multiple devices. Also new APIs will help developers post leader boards and promote achievements such as high scores. In addition, Google is in the midst of rolling out various enhancements to Google Maps, adding a 3-D capability, as well as the ability to customize maps based on the usage patterns of the individual.

But the capabilities discussed at the event also carry a Big Brother concern, according to Deglise of Kilo-App.

"As the services become more integrated, the results become amazing and frightening at the same time," he said. "Google continually knows more about us, and time will tell what they do with that information."