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The tricks Google has up its sleeve for us in 2014

Ash K. Casson.

Since the entity known as Google is so completely and utterly intertwined within most of our daily lives - be it from its origins as a search engine, or as the Android operating system your smartphone sports, or absolutely anywhere in between - it seemed just plain wrong to allow the company's annual presentation of what's coming soon (self-titled 'Google I/O) to pass-by without bringing you a brief summary of the key points from the keynote speech held in San Francisco last week.

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I won't delve too much into Google, I've done that plenty of times already. Without further ado, I'll get on with this year's highlights.

First, Android L. Apart from what has now become a minority of BlackBerry and Windows Phone users, most of us (91% of global smartphone users, to be more precise) now sport either an iPhone or an Android phone. Android, made by Google, now boasts a whopping 1 billion active users worldwide. Historically, Google releases a new major release of Android each year, each one always named after a popular dessert, and released alphabetically; Cupcake; Donut; Eclair; Froyo; Gingerbread; Honeycomb; Ice Cream Sandwich; Jelly Bean and the most recent (a joint campaign between Google and Nestle); KitKat.

As with most technology, it only lasts as the top-of-the-range product for a short while before it is superseded by a newer version or model. In this case, KitKat is soon to be replaced with (the currently dessert-less) Android L (rumoured to be Lollipop). I won't go too much into the technical specifics, but what we've been shown by Google so far proves that 'L' will be faster (big surprise), provide better battery life, simplify your notifications and make them less intrusive, and bring a cleaner, more depth-oriented interface along with shadows and slick animations, as well as pinch a couple of previously iPhone-related features including a 'Do Not Disturb' mode.

As with most new Android releases, the main focuses are being faster, more power-conscious, with a cleaner look and easier on the eye. It's still a few months away and will be pre-installed on newer devices come the autumn, as well as becoming available for some currently-available Android devices.

Moving on, Android Wear was mentioned at the keynote. This is essentially the new collective name for all wearable android technology (primarily smart watches and 'Google Glass' eyewear). Google showcased the new wearable Android, making it so that it resembles what Android users are already used to on their smartphones. For me, wearable tech still hasn't truly taken off yet, but Google are going all out to change this, and I don't envision it taking too much longer before we're all one step closer to checking messages on our wrists.

Next up, Android One. This is mostly aimed at developing countries where Google doesn't yet have the presence it would like with Android. It is developing cheap-to-buy, yet still very powerful Android smartphones for sale in countries that aren't adopting the more expensive, high-end devices yet (an, 'Android-for-all' approach, if you will). I've no doubt this is Google's efforts to get people not already hooked on Android "desserts" caught on the fish hook.

Android TVwas next to be mentioned. This is essentially a service that can either be built in to televisions or come as a set-top box. It will make available services like Hulu and Netflix streaming, as well as other apps as they are developed and it will focus very much on voice control, similarly to how existing devices such as Microsoft's XBox One does. The big question here is: with so many current devices already offering these services, is there really any room for another? And the answer is probably: yes, because this time it's Google making it, and we're almost all suckers for Google deep down.

Other topics were shown off to the crowd of over 1000 and tens of thousands worldwide watching on (Google's own) YouTube channel, where it was streamed live. These included newer additions to Google's efforts to get into your car and help you drive, new software to go with your smartphone to help you keep track of your health and fitness, new versions of its office applications, updates to its Google Mail service and much more.

Consider this a heads-up. Most of this won't be mainstream for a while yet, but unless you live a Google-less life (which is becoming increasingly difficult these days) you'll see much of the above as and when Google thrust it at you.

Until then, enjoy your KitKat and drive safely.

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