Liz Gannes

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The Latest From Chrome and Android at Google Launch Event

Google will show off the latest in its Chrome and Android lines this morning.

It’s no secret that there should be a new Nexus 7 — in fact, Best Buy already has the tablet on sale in 16 gigabyte and 32GB configurations.

Android itself is due for a modest update, as well, going to version 4.3 with improvements in Bluetooth and tweaks other areas.

We’re also expecting something called “Chromecast” from Chrome, which will offer another way to get content from a mobile device on to a TV.

Earlier:
9:06 am: Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome and Apps, takes the stage.

“At Google I/O, we talked about the fact that we are living at a pivotal moment in computing,” he says. “Laptops, tablets, phones, televisions — it’s a multiscreen world.

“Our goal is to deliver an experience that is seamless.”

Pichai says, “Between Android and Chrome, we have a solution for all the computing devices that users have in their lives.”

Two things coming today: A new Android device, a new Chrome device.

By the end of 2013, consumers are going to buy more tablets per year than personal computers. How is Android doing? More than 70 million activated so far.

Almost one in two tablets sold worldwide is based on Android.

A year ago, 20 billion applications downloaded on Google Play. Today, 50 billion. And, revenue per user is up 2.5x in a year. In that year, Google Play has gone from half a billion apps to 1 billion apps.

Pichai: We’ve worked closely with Asus — the CEO, Jonney Shih is here. The Nexus 7 accounts for more than 10 percent of tablets sold. In Japan, it was the single highest-selling tablet in the holiday season, accounting for 45 percent of sales.

Android exec Hugo Barra hops on stage. We can see he has a tablet in his back pocket.

It’s tiny and thin. Barra: It’s 2 millimeters thinner, with the same display size but reduced side bezels of 3 mm on either side. And it’s 50 grams lighter. “It’s a much more comfortable grip, and of course, it fits easily into your purse or jacket.” It has the same soft touch with added gloss.

It has higher resolution — from 216 pixels per inch to 323 per inch — the highest of any in the market.

It can show a 30 percent wider range of colors, and has stereo speakers, with Fraunhofer virtual surround sound.

Even more specs: 1.2 MP front camera, 5 MP rear camera. 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.8x CPU, 4x GPU, doubled system memory to 2 GB. Dual band Wi-Fi, BLuetooth 4.0, 4G LTE for any U.S. network. HDMI, NFC, wireless charging. Some extra power compared to the original — 9 hours of HD video and 10 hours of Web browsing.

And it’s shipping with Android 4.3, the new version of Jelly Bean.

It has multi-user support with restricted profiles that give control over content and apps at a user level (for example, for parents).

Now Barra is showing off a jigsaw puzzle app on his tablet … scintillating demo material.

The app hides all the purchasing functionality and only exposes content to the restricted profile that has been approved.

And supporting OpenLG ES 3.0 to support graphics in games.

Here’s Ina Fried’s dedicated post on the Nexus 7.

Barra says they’re going to show car racing with “jaw-dropping visuals.” These demos are always a little strange because we’re watching them projected on a huge screen, not the tiny tablet.

As a lady shoots people while riding a motorcycle amid lens flares, Barra says it’s all rendered in real-time in native 1080p resolution.

Plus, there are new DRM APIs to restrict content access, which Barra says he’s “thrilled” about. Really? Oh no, he’s actually “thrilled” that Netflix has designed for it. Their new app supporting Android 4.3 is already available.

So when is Android 4.3 coming? They’re pushing an update over the air today.

Barra switches over to talk about native Google Apps to show how they look on a tablet. They’ve redesigned Google Docs, with support for offline spreadsheet editing, etc. Chrome now has “print-quality” text and 15 percent more screen space. It also includes automatic translation.

The new Google Maps includes an “Explore” feature. Barra is gushing about how the layout is “awesome” especially at such a high resolution. And lastly, Google Hangouts — it also includes screensharing so people who are video-chatting can watch each other edit docs on their tablets.

Google Play product manager Ellie Powers shows how tablet apps are featured, and says hundreds of games have added the Google Play game services shown off at Google I/O. She demos some games and leaderboards. For instance, a game that looks like Mario Kart on jet skis now features responsive splashes on the windshield, and a game with a guy jumping across rooftops, parkour-style, has the shadows on the buildings change as you shift perspective.

Google Play will have a textbook section starting in early August, she says, with books from all five major textbook publishers. It’ll include purchases as well as rentals for up to an 80 percent discount.

The prices are $229 for 16GB, $269 for 32GB and $349 for unlocked LTE. The first two will be on sale on July 30 at Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, etc. The 4G model will be available “in the coming weeks,” as will international launches in countries like the U.K. and Germany.

After a kind of odd Nexus 7 commercial about a kid with braces giving a speech in front of his class and then Googling “how do I ask a girl out,” Pichai is back. He’s talking TV. He says every single month more than 200 billion videos are watched in the world. And Netflix and YouTube combined have 49.4 percent share of all peak downstream Internet traffic in America. And lots of that is happening on non-TV devices.

A product dude whose name I didn’t catch says Google’s goals for TV are: “Make it fast and easy to set up, with nothing new to learn, and it works across platforms and devices.”

He holds up what looks like a little USB stick, and says it’s called Chromecast. It’s running a simplified version of Chrome OS. It plugs into the HDMI port on a TV.

Let’s say you want to watch YouTube on your TV, he says — you’ll go to that site on your phone/table/PC and see a “Cast” button on the screen. When you do that, it’s pulled from the cloud and played directly on the TV. Your device doesn’t push the content, it comes direct from YouTube.

For the demo, Rishi Chandra comes onstage. In the past, he’s the guy who demoed Google TV.

Interestingly, this TV effort is built around Chrome OS, where the previous Google TV was built on Android.

Here’s Ina’s pullout story on Chromecast.

Oops, and I missed her Android story. She’s a busy lady.

“If you know how to use YouTube on your phone, you know how to use YouTube on your TV,” Chandra says.

He adds, “Even in sleep mode, the videos continue to play. We don’t drain your battery.”

But, he says, “we recognize that not everyone has an Android phone. And we need a solution that works for everyone. Let’s pretend my wife has an iPhone (heh).” It works the same.

The Cast button can also be used to bring a video back to the phone — if you click it, you can switch to your phone screen and the video will keep playing from the place you left it.

This also works for Netflix. This is the third Netflix callout of the presentation — unusually strong support for a single partner.

Chandra plays the “House of Cards” credits, which are in my opinion possibly awesomer than the show. This demo is to show that you can direct the content from any device that’s connected to the Chromecast on the TV.

In this game of dueling remote controls, you can control content between an iPhone, a Nexus 7 and a TV. It’s not exactly clear to me how this is coordinated — perhaps it’s just the fact that they’re on the same Netflix account.

This can also be used for Google Play Music and Pandora, Chandra says. The “Cast” button — which is a little rectangle with arcs in the corner — shows up there, too.

And lastly, a beta feature: You can project any Chrome tab from the browser to the TV.

“We’ll project what’s on your local device right onto the television — not the entire desktop or the URL bar, but what you want to look at.” Chandra keeps emphasizing that the TV is the best screen in the house with the best speakers in the house, so it’s ideal for content.

This will work with most Windows and Mac laptops as well as Chromebooks.

Developers won’t need to build a new app to work with the Google Cast SDK, which is out in developer preview today.

Actually, the Pandora integration is still under development.

It will retail for $35 and can be ordered today from Amazon, Best Buy and Google Play.

And it will include three months free of Netflix (another Netflix plug/tie-up!) if you buy now.

That concludes the presentation. Bye for now!


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus