SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google's sixth annual conference for software developers opened Wednesday with a chance for the company to showcase its latest services. Announcements include a new phone, new tools for online games and a music-streaming service that will allow Android users to listen to their favorite songs and artists for a monthly fee.
The audience of about 6,000 people at "Google I/O" includes engineers and entrepreneurs who develop applications and other features that can make smartphones and tablets more appealing. Reporters from around the world also will be on hand, giving Google a chance to generate more hoopla about its latest innovations.
Android already has been activated on 900 million devices made by Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp. and other manufacturers. Android devices are the chief rivals to Apple's iPhones and iPads. Android has helped Google make more money because its search engine and other services, including maps, are usually built into the devices. That tie-in drives more visitors to Google and gives the Mountain View, Calif., company more opportunities to sell ads.
Much of the speculation about the conference has centered on a possible upgrade to the Nexus 7, a mini-tablet that debuted at last year's event.
Google also may provide more insights into the popularity of Google Plus, a social networking alternative to Facebook that launched nearly two years ago. In an attempt persuade more people to use Google Plus more frequently, Google has promised to keep adding tools that aren't available on Facebook.
Google's conference was being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
The keynote kicked off at about 9 a.m. PDT and was expected to last nearly three hours. The conference goes through Friday.
Here's a running account of the event, presented in reverse chronological order. All times are PDT. Presenters include Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president for engineering; Sundar Pichai, the head of Google's senior vice president for apps and the Chrome operating system for laptops; Hugo Barra, vice president for product management at Android; and Ellie Powers, a product manager at Google.
Google unveils a program to get Android tablets into schools. One feature will allow educators to distribute an app to hundreds of tablets with a single click. Schools will able to pay for apps by charging against an account set up ahead of time. Normally, a credit card is required.
Google says Google Play for Education will launch this fall.
Everyone in the audience is getting a free Chromebook Pixel, a high-end laptop developed by Google. It has a high-resolution touch-screen display and usually carries a high price tag — starting at $1,299. It runs Google's Chrome operating system, which is meant mostly for online use.
Google has said that selling Pixels isn't the company's main goal with the machine. Rather, the company made it to showcase Google's vision for the future of computing. So giving Pixels away to engineers and entrepreneurs is consistent with that strategy.
Google demonstrates the ability to play games simultaneously on its Chrome browser. Everything stays in sync even though the devices used varied.
Google's stock broke $900 for the first time shortly before the conference started. At 10:10 a.m. PDT (1:10 p.m. EDT), it was up $18.72, or 2.1 percent, at $905.84. Google's market value also surpassed $300 billion for the first time.
There's a new phone from Google. It will run on a newer version of the Android operating system, version 4.2. The Android version will still be called Jelly Bean, rather than Key Lime Pie — the next in a series of dessert-themed code names.
It will be unlocked, meaning it will work with any carrier, including those abroad. But it also means the price won't be subsidized by the carrier. Google will sell it for $649 starting June 26, rather than the usual $200 or so with a two-year contract.
Google says the new phone is a variant of Samsung's Galaxy S4 phone, which was recently released.
Google also says that the new phone will be able to get Android updates as we come. U.S. carriers sometimes block those updates from getting to locked phones.
Google unveils a music service called All Access. The streaming service will allow Android users to listen to their favorite songs and artists for a monthly fee.
Google wants to not only offer access to millions of songs, but also help guide you to music you might like. You can choose one of 22 music genres and see key albums that define the genre along with recommendations from Google's curators. You can listen to any track right away, or switch to a "radio station" format featuring songs you'll likely want to hear. You can adjust the playlist as you go.
The cost is $9.99 a month in the U.S., after a 30-day free trial. It launches in the U.S. Wednesday. If you start the trial by June 30, the monthly fee will drop to $7.99. It will be available in other countries later.
Google's All Access will be competing with Spotify and other popular music services.
Google says its online Play store will make recommendations for apps, books, movies and music based on the device you are using. After all, what works well on a tablet might not on a phone.
Powers introduces a service to help software developers get more users and make more money through their apps.
It will tell a developer, for instance, that an app is particularly popular in Russia, so that the developer could consider making a Russian-language version. Google is offering an app-translation service to help with that.
Another feature is designed to help developers understand how effective their ads are in getting people to download their apps.
Google unveils a tool to help software developers make sure their apps work well on different screen sizes. That's important because some people use phones and others use mid-size or larger tablets. Developers will want to make sure their apps are pleasant across the board.
Google introduces a technology for syncing notifications on different devices. The idea is when you dismiss a notification about a new Facebook message, for instance, it wouldn't reappear when you check your tablet.
Google also unveils new gaming tools. You can save where you are in a game and pick up on another device. You can also see how you rank on new leaderboards. This appears similar to what Apple offers on iPhones and iPads through its Game Center. Getting into gaming gives Google an opportunity to participate in one of the most popular activities on mobile devices.
Barra introduces a few tools for software developers to incorporate into their apps. One allows apps to track what users are doing, such as walking. It may appear creepy to users, but Barra says the tools will allow developers to create "a whole new category of awesome apps."
Pichai talks about Google having two large, fast-growing platforms: Android for smartphones and tablets and Chrome for laptops.
He says Android has grown from being on 100 million devices in 2011, 400 million in 2012 to 900 million now. He calls the growth "extraordinary." He suggests there's still room for growth with 7 billion people in the world.
After a brief multimedia presentation, Gundotra appears on stage to open the conference.
- Technology & Electronics