The words of one of my Android friends sums up Google I/O 2014 pretty well: S— just got real.
Google’s developer conference is a free for all love fest of all things Android, Chrome, and Google. Of course, the conference wasn’t without its problems, since a group of Apple fanboys (not really) decided to protest the keynote address.
Those small distractions aside, there were a couple of really big announcements that lawyers will love.
Google Drive just got big
Perhaps the most transformative element was the announcement that Google Apps accounts will receive unlimited storage space for $120 per user, per year (accounts with less than 5 users get 1 TB).
With that much storage space for that cheap of a price, the choice to use Drive is a no-brainer.
I/O speakers also emphasized the fact that Google Drive encrypts information to protect your data. Some folks may argue that your data’s still housed on Google’s servers, but they’re really one of the few companies encrypting the data.
Your documents just got better
I love Google Docs, especially when I have to collaborate with others to create a pleading or other document. Docs really offers the most convenient option for managing multiple users with multiple bits of information.
Google’s expanding its document functionality by giving users the ability to edit native Word files directly in Docs.
This is a huge change, considering that the process used to involve importing the document in to Docs, and sadly trying to edit from there. Now, users won’t have to convert the document into Docs format to edit. Of course, conversion is still available, if you’d like to use Google Docs’ editing capabilities. Google didn’t say whether this function would roll out to mobile devices through the Docs app.
The second announcement involves giving users the ability to redline. This is a most-requested function for attorneys, which has never worked well in Google Docs. Google’s process is called, “suggested edits,” but works similar to Microsoft Word’s process.
Finally, Google announced a new Slides app, but didn’t reveal a lot of information. My guess is that the app will allow presentations from mobile devices, and hopefully presentations to Chromecast.
Chromecast goes pro
Mirroring is coming to Chromecast in the next few weeks. That’s huge and means that users can display their mobile device’s desktop on the television screen. A short demonstration of the function was all I needed to know this is awesome.
Mirroring of devices to Chromecast is a much requested feature, and the minute you see mirroring in action — I rooted my Nexus 5 with Towelroot and am running Koush’s Mirror app — you’ll fall in love. Mirroring definitely opens the options for using Chromecast and tablets for trial or hearings.
The biggest drawback for mirroring is the need for a dedicated WiFi network, but that’s easy enough to create with portable hotspots or routers. I wish that the Chromecast could generate its own network connection, like Netgear’s Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter.
Chromecast will also enable you to show local pictures on your television. Although the Chromecast backgrounds are magnificent, I’ve yearned for the ability to broadcast some of my awesome pictures. That’s now possible.
Another feature is the ability to have friends show their videos and pictures on the Chromecast without connecting to your wireless network. If your friends are in the same room as the Chromecast device, then they’ll be able to share their content.
Google announced Android Wear several months ago, so the fact that Google showed off these new devices wasn’t any surprise.
I was anxious to discover what was actually possible, but not totally sold on the value of wearable devices. That changed after I played with the Samsung Gear 2, and today’s I/O keynote further convinced me of their utility.
LG’s G watch and Samsung’s new Gear Live watch will go on sale in the Play Store shortly.
Easy access to information is the true utility of wearables, and I’m excited to see what apps arrived — Dave Singleton ordered a pizza from his watch.
Integration and “L”
The introduction of wearables also means they should work together. Google’s big push is cross-device integration, meaning the information on your watch syncs with your desktop/laptop and mobile device. Thus, if you remove a card from your watch, the card disappears from other devices also.
Google’s going to make a smooth integration possible by releasing Android “L”, a new, smoother incarnation of Android OS. The release is beta for now, but will roll out to devices in the fall.
Google also announced a new “replacement program” for Nexus or Google Play Edition devices called Android One. Android One will operate like Nexus or Google Play, but
roll out to all Android devices (newer first, then legacy systems) will set some (basement) standards on hardware. Android One users will pick a device and receive updates to Android OS shortly after the file release. More users (excluding Verizon — kidding) will have the latest updated devices. Edited: The program will roll out in India, with some phones costing as little as $100. This is targeted toward the developing world, so don’t expect a lot of these devices moving forward.
Of course, this means that rather than lagging behind other systems, Android lawyers will have the latest and most up-to-date system, ensuring more usability. Lagging updates is most users’ biggest complaint about Android. Android One does not kill off Nexus, at least right now.
Google really pushed Android L’s new GPU (user inteface) and CPU performance capabilities, which Google says will reduce lag and latency. Developers will have control over battery performance, thus eliminating battery eating apps. There are some other sweet performance enhancements with L that will boost Android’s usability.
One of the biggest changes is going to come because of Android’s “Material Design.” The effect is a totally redesigned user interface that makes Android look awesome. We saw Material Design in Gmail and in Chrome for Android.
You’ll also see that Google’s changing the menu buttons at the bottom of the device. One of the biggest Material Design features will result in bolder colors, smoother fonts, and an overall appealing look.
Notifications and unlock will change, too. Users can instantly view the actual notification and respond. We’ll still have swipe to remove. L will also bring a new “proximity unlock” feature that will all you to determine “safe” spot and prevent your device from locking. This will result in easier access.
I actually think Android attorneys will love this, since you can designate spaces to keep your Android device unlocked. I hate unlocking my phone at my office or home, even though I know those spaces are relatively secure. One worry I do have is whether users can designate a specific unlock time, rather than always unlock. I can see issues with devices being unsecure because they’re still connected to a “trusted” wireless network in another room.
I’ll briefly mention Android Auto, Google’s new car integration. This will be awesome, but I don’t expect to see too many affordable vehicle in the very near future.
Finally, and perhaps most revealing, was that Android apps will now integrate with Chromebooks, which will allow you to run some apps from your Chromebook. I definitely think that lawyers will love this, especially when you can have cross-platform appearance.
BYOB isn’t going to be such a stigma anymore. Samsung’s contributing its Knox technology to L. In the future, devices running L will have enhanced security. More importantly, Google’s also taking precautions to enhance Google Play Services to further protect devices from compromised situations.
Obviously this will greatly boost Android’s reputation in the enterprise environment.
This isn’t really attorney related, but Google’s new media platform is called Android TV. This looks very cool, and very similar to Amazon Fire TV. Android TV will come built in to certain television sets — Sony and Samsung, for sure — but will also come in streaming units (ASUS was mentioned as one manufacturer).
Android TV will have Google Cast SDK capability, and integrate with games — think PlayStation or Xbox gaming systems. That means you can send content to the television, or use a D-pad or tablet for multiplayer gaming.
Definitely a bright future for Android
I’m encouraged by the possibilities ahead for Android devices. I’d really like to see an Android One tablet from ASUS or Samsung, with some top notch specs. I see Android L as a legitimate challenger to iOS. If manufacturers can create a quality device with great hardware, Android L will allow Android lawyers to jump miles ahead of the iOS fanboys.
If you want to see some more of the amazing innovations from Google’s developers, check out the keynote.
Incidentally, which of today’s announcements do you think will have the most impact on the future of Android for lawyers? Let me know in the comments.
This post has been updated to edit information about Android One.