Google may be getting ready to launch its fabled Google TV set-top box during the company’s Google I/O developer conference on Thursday, according to the latest rumors. The search giant may also make an Android announcement, possibly introducing Android 2.2, the next iteration of Google’s smartphone OS.
Google already made some interesting announcements during the company’s first I/O keynote address on Wednesday, and while at first glance some of Google’s announcements appear to be directed at developers, these new technologies and products will also impact consumers.
Here’s a quick look at Wednesday’s highlights as well as a brief preview of Thursday morning’s rumored announcements.
Chrome Web App Store
What it is: Google is launching an online store for Web appsbuilt with standard Web tools and technologies. Applications that Google showed off at I/O include popular applications like the Twitter client Tweetdeck, games like Plants vs. Zombies, and a digital version of Sports Illustrated.
Why it matters: Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past few years, it should be pretty clear to you that technology companies are obsessed with apps these days. Prompted by the success of Apple’s iPhone, and now the iPad, smartphone makers and carriers are falling over themselves to provide downloadable apps for their customers. Google wants to replicate this success and bring apps into the cloud, by making robust applications available to any device that uses a modern Web browser. This is yet another attempt by Google to make cloud computing mainstream, and will complement the search giant’s upcoming Chrome OS platform for laptops and netbooks.
What it is: Google has taken Google Wave–the company’s real-time, cloud-based collaboration software– out of its preview phase and made Wave open to all users.
Why it matters: Despite the fact that Google Wave fell off the radar for most people since its launch during Google I/O 2009, the collaborative platform does have potential and has become more usable since its initial launch. Whether or not Wave will revolutionize collaborative work for users in remote locations is unclear, but there’s definitely potential for Wave to be a bigger success than it currently is.
WebM video format
What it is: WebM is a new open-source, royalty video formatthat Google is putting forward as a possible standard for the coming video tag in HTML 5. WebM features the VP8 video codec, the Vorbis audio codec, and the Matroska media container. Basically, this means the video images (VP8) and the audio that accompanies the video (Vorbis) are packaged together in the Matroska file format. Matroska files have the file extension .mkv.
Why it matters: VP8 plays into the Adobe vs. Apple fight over Flash, which is really a battle over the future of Web video. Right now, various technology companies and groups are vying for their preferred video codec to become the universal standard used in HTML 5, the newest version of the computer language that governs the Web. HTML 5’s proposed video tags would make embedding video into a Web page as easy as embedding an image or lines of text.
The problem is that no one can agree on which video codec to universally support, and different browsers are supporting different video codecs. Mozilla supports Ogg Theora, Apple supports h.264, Microsoft in Internet Explorer 9 will support h.264 and VP8, Opera supports Ogg Theora and will support VP8, and Google Chrome supports Ogg Theora, h.264 and now VP8.
This fractured landscape is a nightmare for Web developers since it would be impractical and expensive to encode so many different video types for different browsers. If this situation continues, developers would be unlikely to move away from universal video plugins like Flash, and this reluctance to change could ultimately slow down the development of HTML 5 and future Web innovations.
Google App Engine for Businesses
What it is: Google is opening up a cloud-based platform that allows businesses to create Web-based applications for internal use.
Why it matters: While this announcement may not directly affect most users it’s an interesting move by Google and shows just how important the enterprise market is to Google’s vision for a world filled with cloud-based apps.
Why it matters: Google TV could be yet another failed attempt to bring the Web to your television, but this project is rumored to have the backing of heavy hitters like Sony, Intel and Logitech. So will Google and its friends be the first company to popularize the Web on your TV? Hopefully we’ll get a preview of Google’s TV plans soon.
Along with Thursday’s rumored Google TV announcement, today’s keynote may also bring some significant Android news, according to TechCrunch. Will Froyo, a.k.a. Android 2.2, make an appearance? Only a few hours until we find out for sure.