Google has initiated a big redesign of its Android software that will take the system beyond the smartphone and into smartwatches, cars and on to the television set.
The internet search giant unveiled a raft of new developments of Android at its I/O developers conference. It kicked off the convention by boasting that there were one billion active Android smartphone users in the world and that its tablet market had risen to 62 per cent from 42 per cent last year.
Sundar Pichai, head of both Android and Chrome software, said that 20 billion messages were sent over phones using Android software daily and that 93 million “selfies” were snapped every 24 hours. “The robot is pretty happy,” he said, referring to the green icon that Google uses to represent Android.
The conference was used as a springboard for Google to push Android beyond the mobile, and demonstrations of smartwatches, in-car systems and TVs using the operating system were previewed. The new version of Android — called L — was shown off with a design that Mr Pichai said would work “across all form factors”.
David Singleton, a Google engineer from Belfast, showed off an app for a smartwatch that enables a user to flick between the steps of a brisket recipe rather than scrolling down a smartphone screen with dirty fingers. He also ordered a pizza from the smartwatch in 20 seconds. The company said that Android-based smartwatches from LG and Samsung would be available today, and that a Motorola watch would launch later in the year.
The smartwatch push takes Google into direct competition with Apple in the nascent market for “wearable technology” and the search company also wants to take on its rival on car dashboards. Apple launched its CarPlay system with Ferrari and Volvo this year as it sought to expand its iOS software beyond the smartphone, and Google has followed suit with new Android software that 25 car brands have signed up to use. Google said that the first cars using Android Auto would hit the road this year.
Google launched its latest attempt to crack the television market with Android TV. The system, which will allow users to search for films, TV shows or actors by talking to the TV set, will replace its unsuccessful Google TV platform that was launched in 2010. The new system will be built into smart TVs from Sony and Sharp but not Samsung, a key partner of Google in smartphones and its previous TV efforts, because the South Korean company has a competing product.
Analysts said that Google’s plan to adapt Android for other devices, such as TVs and watches, was ambitious. “Some are crowded and chaotic markets, but we predict Android Wear will rapidly become the de facto standard for wearables with screens,” CCS Insight, the research company, said.
The event did not go without a hitch, however. It started late, some demonstrations did not go smoothly and protesters interrupted various speakers.