Google ups the ante with new products, updates

Takeaways for Realtors from Google's annual I/O conference

Poker image via Shutterstock.Poker image via Shutterstock.

Executives with search engine giant Google recently rolled out a plethora of product updates at the company’s annual I/O conference in San Francisco.

If you’ve got four hours to kill, check out the recorded keynote. If not, here’s the breakdown and what new products and updates mean for real estate pros.

It’s been interesting to watch Google’s maturation process. Not only is their core product line more focused, the company’s keynotes are now more refined.

Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president, opened the keynote by setting a tone reminiscent of Steve Jobs. With the unveiling of every new product, Gundotra emphasized the notion that technology should work behind the scenes and not hinder or frustrate the user — it should just work. This premise, a common theme at every Apple event, is a refreshing new addition at I/O.

Google’s ecosystem, at least in terms of development, is divided into two sections: Android and Chrome.

Google kicked off I/O by announcing that 900 million Android devices have been activated, making Android the most popular mobile operating system in the world. They also revealed Android Studio, an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) specifically created to develop Android apps.

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Although iOS still dominates usage statistics, particularly in terms of the mobile Web, there’s no doubting Android’s market share. Real estate professionals need to thoughtfully analyze their Web analytics before making any decisions about mobile or marketing.

Strangely, there was no mention of Key Lime Pie (the next edition of the Android mobile operating system), or Google Glass.

Google is incorporating some intriguing technologies for Chrome (both in mobile and the desktop), particularly in regards to data compression.

“The browser is a means, not an end,” said Linus Upson, vice president of engineering for Chrome. “We are always trying to figure out how to make the browser smaller and faster.”

Google has adopted the WebP image format, which can reduce file size by up to 30 percent and replace JPG, PNG and animated GIFs. In fact, Mozilla, which initially shunned the file format, is reconsidering its adoption.

Google also announced that YouTube would be rolling out support for VP9, WebM’s new video codec. VP9 is a royalty-free video compression format, developed to deliver smaller file sizes and compete with H.264, which is widely utilized by Apple.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on these two file formats and their adoption rates. The real estate industry relies heavily on images and videos for marketing materials and it will be interesting to see if these file formats have a positive impact on the industry.

Google Plus received a complete overhaul that includes 41 new features across three areas of the platform:

1. A redesigned stream.

2. A brand-new Hangouts application.

3. A revamped photo-sharing experience.

Google is now giving users 15 gigabytes of storage for high-resolution photographs, and the upgraded module includes Instagram-like photo filters. It’s worth noting that there was plenty of iOS discussion during this portion of the event but oddly, not a mention of Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

Google Maps is another application that received an entire reworking that will certainly have an impact on Realtors. I’ve been testing out the new maps and, I have to say, it is super slick.

As of this writing, the new desktop maps are available now to preview (you can request an invite), and mobile apps for iOS and Android will be available this summer.

The upgraded Google Maps features a new user interface, personalization and immersive imagery. In fact, 3-D mode is the equivalent of having Google Earth in your browser.

However, be sure to cross-reference the system requirements. 3-D mode requires the latest and greatest software, and can run a little slow. Real estate pros should know that five-point reviews are directly streamed onto the map results.

Of course, Google’s bread and butter, search, was also covered at the I/O event. Google continues to develop its knowledge graph and is building a search model that can answer, converse and anticipate.

They have also developed a conversational assistant that’s coming to Chrome that utilizes hot-wording. Hot-wording is initiated by a command, for instance, “OK Google” and then allows a user to ask a question or search query. Voice command technology is the future of Google search, and this shift will have a significant impact on both consumers and marketers.

Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO, closed out the I/O conference in a rather strange fashion. Page, who is recovering from vocal cord paralysis, took the stage and awkwardly discussed the negativity in the industry and rivalries with competing companies. In a somewhat unconventional manner, he then took questions from the audience.

Despite the erratic finale of the event, Google unveiled a bunch of new products and truly upped the ante in terms of technology. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple unveils at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to be held in San Francisco June 10-14.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.

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