Google’s I/O developer conference has come to a close, and the Mountain View-based company didn’t pull any punches. Featuring the Nexus 7 tablet, the Nexus Q media center, and Project Glass, today’s event – like Microsoft’s Los Angeles event – was all about the marriage of hardware and software. Oh, and one of Sergey Brin’s friends jumped out of a plane to crash the conference (which, I suppose, is slightly better than crashing a plane to get to the conference).
Because the event went so long and Google announced a large number of new features and products, we’re splitting our coverage into two posts; one devoted to hardware, the other to software. In this post we take a look at the Nexus 7 tablet, the Nexus Q home media center, and Project Glass, the not-so-secret project from Google’s [x] labs.
Nexus 7 Tablet
Google didn’t do the best job of keeping the Nexus 7 a secret, with leaks bursting from the Internet pipeline just hours before I/O began. A 7-inch tablet with a 1280 x 800 resolution, quad-core processor and a whopping 12-core GPU, the Nexus 7 is Google’s first entry into the tablet market. (Note: The tablet itself is manufactured by Asus, but Google maintains tight control of the Nexus line.)
With a similar form factor and an identical price ($199 in the US), the Nexus 7 is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Weighing in at just .75 pounds and sporting a rubberized back, Google touted the Nexus 7′s small size as a main selling point. The tablet is available for preorder today, and should ship in mid-July.
It’s interesting that Google worked with Asus on the Nexus 7 instead of developing it in-house via its Motorola Mobility division. This may be a result of Google’s commitment to keeping Android “open” to its other partners, but it raises the question: Why buy a hardware company like Motorola, if you aren’t going to build your own phone or tablet?
Nexus Q is Google’s (Next) Play for the Living Room
The Nexus Q is a bit of an oddball. Google is billing it as “the world’s first social streaming media player,” and it seems to be Google’s answer to the Apple TV. Small enough to fit just about anywhere in the home, the Nexus Q integrates with Google’s cloud services and enables Android users to control the device with their phones and tablets.
During the Q’s demonstration Google highlighted the player’s social features, as a number of Google execs chose what music should play, shared YouTube videos, and played a movie that maintained its position across devices. Personally, I would be a bit concerned if anyone could take control of a device attached to speakers and television sets in my home, but one would hope that Google has some form of security in place to prevent this from being an issue.
With HDMI-out, dual-band WiFi, a multi-colored band of light, and a micro-USB port “for general hackability,” the Nexus Q looks like a powerful home media center that pulls out all the stops. The device is currently limited to the US and costs $299; like the Nexus 7, preorders should start shipping in mid-July. Google opted to manufacture the Nexus Q in the US, which may explain its relatively high price compared to the Apple TV. As The Verge’s Chris Ziegler says, “You can’t complain about the Q’s price if you’re also complaining about Chinese labor practices. In fact, you should be ordering a Q.”
Google already made a play for the living room with its Google TV product, which partnered the company’s software with hardware from Sony, Logitech, and, now, Vizio. The company didn’t mention Google TV during today’s event, so we don’t know if the two properties will co-exist or if the Nexus Q will cannibalize Google TV entirely.
Update: A commenter (thanks, “HandNF!”) pointed us towards a comment on Google+ from the Google TV team that shows the two devices/ecosystems will co-exist: “Let’s clarify something. The Nexus Q in no way replaces #GoogleTV or is meant to be competitor to us. It’s meant to work with Google TV for music and other things. More updates will be coming as well as hangouts to make sure everyone is 100% clear and there’s no speculation. Sound good? -Kevin”
Google Glass Available for Developer Pre-Order
Google co-founder Sergey Brin ran out onto the stage during Vic Gundotra’s Google+ talk (With no complaints from the audience, for obvious reasons) to discuss Google’s Project Glass – and draw attention to his friend that was preparing to jump from a plane while wearing the product. As Greg Kumparak puts it: “They told Sergey Brin he could be anything, so he decided to be Tony fucking Stark.”
Sergey discussed the mission behind Project Glass (which appears to have been rebranded as Google Glass) and expressed his excitement about the product before announcing that “Explorer” prototypes of the glasses would be available to I/O attendees for $1500. Unlike the other hardware announced today, the Google Glass: Explorers won’t ship until early next year and can only be preordered from the I/O conference. (Expect to find a pair on eBay shortly after they begin to ship.)
While having someone jump out of a plane to crash your conference may seem like nothing more than headline-bait (see video below), the jump was actually a good demonstration of what Google Glass will be capable of. That Sergey and his friend were able to initiate a Google Hangout via the Glasses and share the experience of jumping out a plane is amazing, yes, but it also shows that the product may be much more reliable than anyone previously expected. As Sergey said, “This could go wrong in about 500 ways.” The fact that nothing did should be enough proof that the glasses will work when you’re trying to take pictures of your baby.
That’s all we have from the hardware today; like any shotgun wedding, Google’s event celebrating the union between software and hardware had plenty of memorable moments, and we’ll be discussing the software developments in a later post.