Google I/O Conference: Five Questions I’d Like to See Answered

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Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Android mascots are lined up in the demonstration area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, May 10, 2011.

Google kicks off its annual Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco today.

While the event is ostensibly a place for app developers to get educated about Android, Chrome and related Google products, it’s also a venue for big news. Google’s will likely announce its first Nexus tablet, along with the next major version of Android, code named Jelly Bean, and you can expect a few other surprises as well.

I’ll be at the conference along with Harry McCracken (we’ll be liveblogging the two keynotes), and though I’m looking forward to the big announcements, I’m also hoping to hear answers to the following questions:

How would a 7-inch Nexus tablet help the Android app ecosystem?

Android tablets are notoriously short on proper tablet apps–a point that Apple loves to flaunt when talking about the iPad. But a 7-inch tablet from Google might not help, even if it’s priced low enough to be a best-seller. Blown-up smartphone apps aren’t ideal on a 7-inch screen, but they’re good enough, so developers still won’t have much of a reason to optimize their Android apps for tablets. Is Google giving up on iPad-size tablets and simply trying to own the smaller tablet market, or is there an angle I’m missing?

What happened to the Android Update Alliance?

At last year’s conference, Google announced the Android Update Alliance, comprised of several major phone makers and wireless carriers. The logistics were up in the air, but Google promised that members would provide the latest Android software on their smartphones for at least 18 months after launch. As PCMag painfully documented last December, the effort is essentially dead, or at least, no one’s said a peep about it since the last Google I/O. And the Android update problem remains; only about 7% of devices are running Android 4.0 or higher. Google owes consumers and developers an explanation, but a real solution to the fragmentation problem would be even better.

What happened to Android@Home?

Much like the Android Update Alliance, Android@Home was announced at last year’s conference, and then forgotten about. It was supposed to be Google’s entrance into home automation, providing a framework for smart homes powered by Android accessories. There have been rumors of a Google streaming music system, but that would just be one piece of the puzzle. Mainstream home automation is one of those tech revolutions that’s never quite here, so I’m curious to know if Android@Home is another botched effort, or one that’s still just getting started.

Where is Google TV going?

Google TV has already failed once. The original vision for the product, to combine Internet and cable TV through the power of search, fell flat when most TV providers refused to jump on board, and television networks actively blocked the platform from their websites. Now, a new generation of devices is on the way, and reviews are middling to negative so far. I don’t know whether Google will announce any major updates to Google TV at this year’s conference, but I’d like to know how the company expects to turn the ship around. What is Google’s vision for the product, and what will it accomplish that other connected devices don’t?

Is a touch-friendly Chrome OS still in the cards?

Google has dropped a few hints about Chrome OS for tablets over the years, including some early UI concepts and an admission to CNET that touch optimizations are in development. Chrome OS is now more refined than ever, but Google is still committed to “doubling down” on Android tablets. Is tablet support the next step for Chrome OS, or is it still on the backburner?

MORE: Live Blog Coverage of Two–Count ‘Em, Two–Google Keynotes This Week

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