Bonnie Cha

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Where Are They Now? Google I/O 2012 Edition.

This year’s Google I/O developer conference is shaping up to be a very different show from last year’s spectacle.

The company has downplayed expectations ahead of the event, saying that it will shift the focus back on developers and services rather than new hardware products and a new operating system.

We’ll find out exactly what’s in store tomorrow, when Google I/O 2013 officially kicks off with a three-hour keynote. But, before that, we thought this would be a good time to take a look back at what has happened since the last I/O.

At times resembling an action flick more than a developer conference, Google I/O 2012 was most memorable for the outrageous Google Glass demonstration and hardware announcements. But with all that hype comes some disappointment.

Google Glass

Skydivers, rooftop bikers and rappellers — that’s how Google first introduced Google Glass to the world. This wearable computer allows users to take pictures and video, get directions and search the Internet by voice. At the time of the conference, U.S.-based attendees could preorder an early version of the futuristic glasses for only (!) $1,500.


Google has since been holding developer events, and the glasses have been making the rounds at high-profile showcases and with some tech bloggers. In an interview with NPR last weekend, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the company has shipped about 2,000 units to developers. However, there is still no release date for the device. If you just can’t wait, you can always make your own.

Nexus Q

Looking to take on Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in the battle for the living room, Google introduced its media-streaming device, the Nexus Q, at I/O last year. The bocce-ball-sized unit allows users to wirelessly stream Google Play content to a TV or home theater system, and there was much praise when Google announced that it would be manufactured in the U.S. But Nexus Q — or at least this first attempt — turned out to be a nothingburger.

A mere month after its debut, Google postponed the Nexus Q indefinitely after getting initial feedback from users saying they wanted the device to do more. The company said it would work on making the product better, but we have yet to see any updates. And we won’t be hearing about it at this year’s conference.

Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 tablet fared much better. Launched in mid-July, the Asus-built tablet stood out in a sea of Android tablets with its affordable $200 price tag, without skimping out on features or quality. AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg called it a winner in his review, and said it was the toughest challenger to the iPad yet.


It’s difficult to know just how well it did, since Google does not release sales figures. But at one point Asus said sales were approaching one million units a month. The Nexus 7 is due for a refresh, but we may not see it till later this summer.

Android Jelly Bean

More of an incremental upgrade than a major overhaul, Android Jelly Bean 4.1 brought such enhancements as improved text and speech input, the ability to share photos between phones via NFC and more detailed notifications. Jelly Bean also introduced Google Now, a smart personal assistant app that provides information based on your location, search queries and other personal data. Just last month, a version of Google Now was released for the iPhone and iPad.

As of May 1, around 28.4 percent of Android devices were running Jelly Bean, which is slightly more than those running the previous version, Ice Cream Sandwich (27.5 percent). Still, a plurality (38.5 percent) of Android phones are running Gingerbread, which is two versions behind Jelly Bean. At I/O 2011, Google announced the Android Upgrade Alliance to help improve the rate of updates, and while things have gotten better, these numbers show that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Google Compute Engine

Looking to take on Amazon in another battleground, Google announced its Compute Engine cloud-computing service at the conference last year. In an effort to get more businesses to run their applications on servers in Google’s data center, the company said its new service offers 50 percent more computing power per dollar than its rivals. Google Compute Engine was released in limited preview at the time of I/O, but last month Google opened up the service to anyone who signs up for its Gold support program, which starts at $400 per month.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik