May 14, 2013 — -- Last year at Google's annual I/O conference, skydivers above the Moscone conference center in San Francisco jumped out of planes, landed on top of the building and ran down into the auditorium filled with Google software developers and members of the media. The plane jumpers were wearing Google Glass, and thus Google introduced one of the most talked-about products in the technology industry.
Tomorrow Google kicks off this year's I/O conference at that very same location. The company has set expectations lower, saying it plans to focus on software developers and not products this year, but perhaps that's just its way of saying there won't be any big skydiver-worthy spectacles. The search giant is still expected to announce a handful of products and new features at its main keynote, which begins on Wednesday, May 15 at 9:00 a.m. PT.
Here's what we expect to see at Google's biggest event of the year.
Google has been known to reveal new additions to its Android operating system for phones and tablets at the show, but this year the company isn't expected to announce a complete overhaul of the software. "It's not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system," Google's Senior President Sundar Pichai, who leads Google's Chrome OS and Android teams, said in an interview with Wired this week. Android watchers don't expect to see the next full version of Android – Android 5.0, also called Key Lime Pie -- but they do expect to see smaller updates in the form of Android 4.3.
Android Hardware: An Updated Nexus 7?
Last year at the conference, Google introduced the $199 Nexus 7 tablet. This year some expect a new version of the tablet to be revealed. According to 9to5Google, the new Nexus 7 will have a 5-megapixel camera, wireless charging and a higher 1920 x 1200-resolution screen. A Nexus 11 made by Samsung and a Google smartwatch has been hinted at, but there have been no strong reports that those products will be introduced in San Francisco this week.
Google Play Games
Google also focused on its Google Play – its Android store for apps, music, movies and other multimedia -- last year. This year, there's speculation that Google may release a major gaming area to the store with a service called Google Play Games. The service is said to be like Apple's Game Center, with group play functionality. Google just updated the design of Google Play for Android.
Google Plus and Messaging
Google hasn't discussed its Google Plus social network in a while, but that's expected to change this week. There are reports that a new Google messaging service called Babel will be announced. The service would allow you to chat with friends across Android, Chrome, iOS, Google Plus and more. Android Police spotted code that indicates that Google is testing the service now.
Restyled Google Maps for Web
Google has done some really nice design work on its Google Maps apps for the iPhone and Android, but it now seems to be focusing on the web version of its maps product. According to leaked screenshots, Google will release a new design for its web app with new icons and styling.
Google Glass Updates and Apps
So the Google skydivers might be stuck back in 2012, but this year lots of people at the conference will be wearing Google's computerized glasses (including us!). With the Explorer Edition of Google Glass just beginning to get into the hands of early adopters, there is bound to be talk of new apps for the wearable device. Perhaps Google will also discuss the public availability of the product.
However, all those expectations are just that. Tomorrow we will get the real news right from San Francisco. ABC News will be on the ground covering the keynote -- stay tuned.