Google's I/O event was held today, impressing the world with the fresh updates and new implementations they've got up their sleeves.
To start off, Google announced that Android 3.1 would be released to Verizon Xoom customers starting today. The update will include customizable widgets, and will allow users to have their device act as a "host" for other devices: for example, connecting a digital camera to your tablet will allow you to import all of your photos, while connecting USB devices like an XBox 360 controller will let you play specific games using the remote. By summer, Android 3.1 will be getting another update to include Google TV, which will have its own section in the Android Market as well.
Speaking of new Android versions, Google's released the official name (but not software number) of their next OS: Ice Cream Sandwich (seen above). They're hoping that this will be the universal OS applied to all devices, including your phone and tablet. While not officially stated, general word amongst fan-droids is that this should help battle fragmentation.
Also new to Android versions: Google has struck a deal with a large list of carriers and OEM's to make sure that all phones released will receive updates for a minimum period of 18 months. While this doesn't explain how often the updates will occur, it's still a start in the right direction. One of Apple's main strengths over Android phones was their stability brought through regular updates; meanwhile, Android owners struggle to get minor fixes corrected within just a few months. See the picture below for just a few of the major OEMs and carriers involved.
Google's also announced two new software services (though this first one was pretty much all but "officially" confirmed): Music Beta and instant movie streaming. Music beta will hold up to 20,000 songs in the cloud and is free (for now - very important note there). Like iTunes and many other media players, you can create playlists, see lists of recently played and play counts, and even offers "Instant Mix" (like iTunes' Genius). Also, once playlists are made, they'll be available on each Android device you own - no need for wires anymore).
Instant movie streaming will have varied pricing, starting at $1.99 for regular movies and $4.99 for HD selections. Upon renting a movie, you have 30 days to start it; once started, you have 24 hours to finish. The real question is how this will play out against other major movie streaming cmopanies such as Netflix.
Music Beta is available now for everyone to tinker with (remember, it's only free while in Beta). The movie streaming app will come with the Honeycomb 3.1 update and will hit phones "in a few weeks" (2.2 and above required, though).
The last two announcements really drove Google's point home - quite literally, too. Android at Home is one of them, which will allow your Android devices to control large appliances and devices throughout the house. This includes dishwashers, thermostats, even lamps. Google realizes that these machines won't have wifi or USB docks, so they're accepting developers to come work with them to make this a relaity. They've already started working on a few examples, such as controlling lights with your tablet.
The other announcement is one welcoming everyone to test and create for ADK, Google's new hardware design. It currently incorporates USB integration, but hopefully will include Bluetooth later. With the ADK, users will be able to control any number of products with their Android devices, assuming it gets a big enough kick-start from hardware designers and developers. At I/O, Google's example was a wooden labyrinth which was controlled by a Xoom via USB.
All in all, lots of exciting things at I/O today. Probably the most famous of these was the promised updates to phones from carriers/OEMs. We've still yet to hear what software number Ice Cream Sandwich OS will be, but we're sure it'll come out in due time. For now, we have Music Beta, instant movie streaming, and soon Google TV to hold us off.