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Google IO 2016: Android N, Chrome OS, virtual reality, and what else to expect

Google is about to show us its future. Every year at its Google IO conference, the company’s top names get on stage to discuss what’s coming next for their biggest projects: Android and Chrome, watches and TVs, VR and AR, cars and balloons, and so on.

The same will certainly be true this year. But looking over all of the leaks and rumors that have come out over the past few months, something stands out to me as being a bit different this time around — we don’t know all of the nitty gritty details about what’s to come. We really may be in for some surprises.

That’s not to say we don’t know anything. There are some big secrets that seem to have leaked out — especially in regard to VR. And generally, we have a pretty good idea of what kinds of announcements Google will focus on. So for those of you wondering what we’re expecting to hear about this week, read on below.

 

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Google IO 2016

Android N: of course we’re going to hear about Android. Google switched things up this year by debuting Android N early, so it may not have as much to talk about on stage at I/O. We already know that it’s getting split-screen multitasking, new quick settings buttons, improvements to battery life, and — most importantly — new emoji.

But there’s almost certainly more to show. Google could demo the coming alternative to 3D Touch (or maybe not). It could give N a proper name or even announce a release date. How much of that will happen? It’s hard to say given Google’s recent timing. Lately, Android releases have been coming out around October. N seems to be relatively far along, but we also don’t know everything that Google is planning.

CHROME OS AND ANDROID BEGIN TO CONVERGEChrome OS: here’s where things could get pretty interesting. Chrome OS and Android are starting to converge, and we’re expecting to see the first big signs of this at I/O. What exactly will that mean? At first, it could look like Chrome OS being able to run most Android apps in the Play Store. That’d be a pretty huge addition to Chrome OS, and it could encourage Android developers to do a better job supporting large screen sizes.

What comes next? In an attempt to quiet rumors that Chrome OS would go away in favor of a desktop Android, Google said last year that it remains “very committed” to Chrome and that we’d be seeing Chromebook for the foreseeable future. So don’t expect huge changes just yet. But Chrome OS is definitely going to get a bit more interesting this year.

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