Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Google in 2013: Five things to watch for

The search giant has big plans for next year. Here are some big things we're expecting, from Nexus to Kurzweil to Google Glass.
With just a handful of days left in 2012 -- and a fighting chance we will avoid the Mayan apocalypse -- it's time to start forecasting what awaits us in 2013. Google had a big 2012, rolling out scores of new products while making countless adjustments to its old ones. In 2013, it will continue to face competition on all sides -- and here are five things to keep an eye on as the New Year ramps up.

(Credit: Google) 
1. What's next for Nexus? This year Google introduced its Nexus tablets to generally strong reviews, along with a Nexus 4 smartphone that showed a high-end smartphone can be sold, unlocked, for a highly competitive price. But while Apple trumpets millions of iPhones and iPads sold, we don't have a clear sense of how many Nexus devices are selling. Shortages of Nexus tablets have been reported, and the Nexus 4 has been difficult to keep in stock. And yet absent a big marketing campaign or mainstream buzz, the Nexus devices are still at risk of looking like also-rans in a mobile world dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Google I/O is returning to the month of May this year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the next version of the Nexus 7 unveiled around that time. (The original launched at I/O this year.) The Nexus 10 is only a couple of months old, but we would also expect a refreshed version of the device sometime in 2013. As for the Nexus smartphone -- it would be nice to see it able to access LTE networks. But getting U.S. carriers to pick it up will likely be a challenge.

2. Will developers go Android-first? It was in December 2011 that Google's executive chairman predicted most developers would soon choose to develop for Android first. More than a year later, there's little evidence that's the case. Whether because of Android users' reputation for being harder to monetize, or concerns about developing for the fragmented ecosystem, or other intangibles, big venture-backed startups often launch first with an iOS app. There are signs that this is starting to change. By some measures Apple and Google's app stores are now roughly tied in the number of apps available on their platforms. But will Android become the premiere platform for app development? It's something we'll be watching closely in 2013.