Google in 2013: what to expect
20th Dec 2012 | 10:30
Key Lime Pie, Fiber and a Moto Nexus, but no Google TV
Google steamrolled right through 2012.
It beat Apple at its own game with a heralded Maps app that puts its rival's navigation installation to shame, dipped heartily into the tablet market with the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 and brought forth a brilliant little thing called the Nexus 4 that's harder to find than a Tickle Me Elmo in 1996.
This was a solid 12 months of growth for Google, but for it to legitimately lay claim to the title of top tech company, Google needs to land a few 2013 knockouts in both the realm of the practical (new hardware) and magical (Google Glass development).
We tracked down a pair of analysts to give us insight into what we can expect from Google next year plus conjured our own predictions, so read on for the machines, services and what we won't see from the G-team in the next 12 months.
1. Motorola-made Nexus and much more hardware
In Larry Page's own words, Google hasn't owned Motorola long enough to have developed a Moto-branded Nexus handset, but we think a year come May is long enough.
The Nexus line is notoriously slow out the gate, but Google is likely already tossing around Moto Nexus ideas, so look for a follow-up to the Nexus 4 (hopefully with 4G) sometime in the fall.
And that's not all:
"Google launched the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 this year, but I suspect the rabbit hole runs much deeper," said Scott Steinberg, a tech analyst who runs TechSavvy Global, a strategic market and research firm. "It's officially branded range is going to get much wider in the next 1-2 years."
The groundwork lain in 2013 could see Google retail stores open in 2014-2015, he added.
2. Key Lime Pie boosts Android dominance
There's no doubt 2013 will see Google serve up Android 5.0: Key Lime Pie.
Google might introduce 5.0 at Google IO (happening May 15 – May 17, 2013), or it could host a separate event, possibly timed with the launch of a new smartphone and/or tablet. However you slice it, Key Lime Pie will help bolster Android's takeover of the OS market.
Windows 8 is still young and iOS still strong, but manufacturers like Samsung, LG and HTC are pushing Android out to an ever-growing audience. That won't slow next year, especially as phones sporting Pie with hyped up specs (like the rumored LG Optimus G2) hit the market.
3. More Google Fiber roll out
Google is in the midst of introducing its ultra-spiffy broadband service to a handful of neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo., and Steinberg said Google has designs on becoming a worldwide internet provider.
Look for Google to broach bringing Fiber to the developing world and other areas of the international market.
It won't take on big North American providers like AT&T and Time Warner just yet, Steinberg noted, but 2013 through 2014 will bring strategic acquisitions, growth and backend build out on the continent.
4. Increased adoption and integration of Google+
For Brian Blau, research director, consumer technology and markets at Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm, Google's social network has grown by leaps in the past 18 months and will continue to saturate Google's platforms more deeply, especially in mobile.
Blau also said Google+ may also see an evolution in its UI towards the "card" design, used currently in Google Now. Business users are flocking to G+, and because it has no real need for advertiser dollars at the moment, users fed up with Facebook could find a new network to frequent.
5. Not the year for Google TV
Steinberg called television the last great untapped territory when it comes to screens, but said Google isn't in a position to go full force in the living room just yet.
The next crack Mountain View takes at Google TV will likely be its last, the analyst predicted, so it's going to take a dedicated amount of resources and brainpower to help it take flight.
"It's a priority for them, but not as big as an initiative as smartphone, tablet and Chromebook development," Steinberg said.
We won't see Google TV make a big push in 2013, but the groundwork will be laid so Google can stand one last firefight for our viewing pleasure.
6. Major e-commerce acquisition
It's been quiet on the Google acquisition front…too quiet.
Yes, it's picked up some businesses in recent weeks, but Steinberg predicted 2013 will hold a very large-scale buy, probably on the e-commerce front.
"I'm not saying eBay's on the table, but expect Google to double down on mobile and location based advertising and deal sites."
7. A wider Chromebook continuum
Google will build out its Chromebook offerings, Steinberg noted, pushing out laptops with increasing power and specifics.
The roll out won't be huge, but we'll see more powerful 'books at premium prices hit the market in 2013, plus some models in the range of the Acer C7 ($199, UK£199).
With the Chromebooks will come increased access via the cloud, gifting users of multimedia and data new applications, including some in 3D.
8. Opening arms to developers
Google has a dev problem in that it hasn't shown app makers how they can monetize their products on Android, turning many towards iOS first.
Blau sees Google at least introducing an API for Google+ in 2013, something it's been sorely lacking in the space.
2013 should be the year Google starts to get developers thinking of Android before iOS, a development Google Play is already helping with.
9. Original YouTube content
As owners of YouTube, Google owns one of the largest entertainment channels, and expect the company to take full advantage of the platform heading into the new year in a way that sets it even further apart from other content delivery systems.
"What I think you see in 2013 and beyond is custom programming," Steinberg said.
We're not talking HBO-style shows, however.
"Vehicles for the superstars and commissioned content that shows off the better content on YouTube" is what Steinberg has in mind.
"When you think YouTube, you think 16-year-olds in a 2-minute video filmed in their bedroom - Google's going to try to get way from that."
10. The big picture
Google is passing out Explorer Editions for Glass to developers next year, handing devs free reign to play with the wearable computers before a 2014 public introduction as a "high-end futuristic item," Steinberg said.
Self-driving cars...well, those are further down the road, but the whimsical won't be missing from Google in 2013, especially with the hire of inventor and AI futurist Raymond Kurzweil.
Beyond the stuff that tickles our imagination, Google will enter the year poised to continue its growth in nearly every facet imaginable.
"Google doesn't want to just be synonymous with search anymore," Steinberg said. "It wants to be the first port of call when it comes to technology, research, purchasing and connection every step of the way."