Google left no stone unturned Wednesday as the technology company unveiled a wide array of products, applications and upgrades to developers and consumers at the 2013 Google I/O conference in San Francisco.
"Technology should do the hard work so people can get on with doing the things that make them happiest in life," Google CEO Larry Page said at the closing of the keynote address. " We should be building great things that don't exist."
Topping the list was a new Google Play music streaming service along the same lines as Spotify or Rdio.
Referred to as "radio without rules," the so-called "All Access" service will work on top of Google Play's existing music store, but will also give users recommendation lists based on their existing library, show curated lists from various music editors and allow users to build personalized radio stations from a single song.
Google also announced slick new upgrades to its social network, mapping applications and search tools.
One of the most popular parts of the company's Google+ social network, Google Hangouts, has been peeled off into its own unified messaging service. The app will allow people to hold text conversations with up to 10 other people across both iOS and Android platforms, as well as allow conversations to be turned into a video chat at any time. Hangouts will be saved on Google's cloud-based storage server, allowing users to access conversations on whatever decide they choose.
Another big addition to Google+ is a cloud-based photo editing and sharing feature called "darkroom." The tool will allow users to enhance the quality of photos taken via smartphone; automatically refinishing images that show signs of poor lighting. Another feature, dubbed "auto awesome," will enhance photos taken in rapid succession: photos of a wide ranging area can be stitched into a panorama or turned into a GIF.
A higher level of customization has been introduced to Google Maps, allowing users to gather real-time, highly localized information on businesses, including Zagat rankings for restaurants. Google has also retooled Google Earth to bring a 3-D view of the planet through its Chrome browser. A preview of the redesign is available on web browsers, with mobile apps receiving an upgrade in the coming months.
A small addition to Google's email service, Gmail, may change the way Internet users conduct business with one another. Gmail will be integrated with Google Wallet, allowing people over the age of 18 to send money via email. Users will have to link a credit or debit card to an existing Google Wallet account and pay a minimum of 30 cents for every transfer. The feature will be rolled out in the U.S. over the next few months.
The bulk of Wednesday's conference was devoted to the upgrades Google has made for application developers. After touting that Android OS has been activated by over 900 million people worldwide, Google announced a number of developer features, including geofencing (a virtual fence that will trigger smartphone users' location) and activity recognition (allowing a phone to recognize whether a person is walking, biking or driving).
Other developer tools include a Google Play Game Services APIs, that will allow games purchased through the Google Play store to be used across platforms, game progression to be logged within Google's cloud and the creation of leaderboards similar to Apple's Game Center.
One product notably absent from the keynote address was any announcement regarding Google Glass, the head-mounted computer that has garnered mixed reviews since its release to early testers.
Google also announced a new initiative, Google Education, designed to make devices, software and applications affordable and accessible to classrooms around the world, the company says.
The program would allow schools to tap into education apps, books and other learning materials in Google Play and distribute them to a wide number of students outfitted with Chromebook laptops or Nexus tablets. The program is already being tested in various school systems across the U.S., with a full launch expected in the fall.
The flurry of announcements over the keynote address only helped the tech giant's business profile: shares of Google crossed the $900 mark during the conference, closing the day at $915.89/share, a 3 percent gain for the day.
- Opinion: Google's Geeky Glass Is Technology at Its Laziest
- Report: Google, Apple Prepare to Face Off in Smartwatch War
- Google Glass? A Smartwatch? No Thanks