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Five Things (About Google I/O) – 19 May 2016


Google Home

Won’t be running out to get one of these. I didn’t rush out to get an Amazon Echo and I’ll probably sit this one out, too. With all Google’s Assistant functions presumably also coming to the app I can interact with on my phone, I don’t have any real reason to buy one of these, should I decide to start talking to my phone (I don’t talk to Google or to Siri on my iPad.)

Besides, I enjoy interacting with my Chromecast the way I do now. I just queue up a bunch of videos and watch. Lots of train videos. And water slide videos.


Google Daydream VR

Didn’t care at first, but when they showed just the logo of in the demo, I became interested. I’ll want more reason to shell out money when this is released in the fall, but being able to watch baseball games in a VR environment is definitely a strong enticement for me. Your mileage may vary.


Android N Updates

I decided against cobbling up some pennies to buy a Galaxy Gear S2 and that decision may hold up even as the next generation of watches come out (I’m definitely not buying an Apple Watch.)

I did like the security and performance updates coming to Android N. But I do have Samsung hardware, so I might see these improvements. And I might not.


Allo and Duo

So exactly how many Google messaging apps do I need? I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts since it first came out. I got Google Voice when it first came out. I survived the aborted marriage of the two, thankfully unscathed.

Now, Google has two more chat apps coming out. The only feature from Allo that I can say I like is the encryption. I really don’t care about the other stuff, even the search. Plus, it’s tied to mobile and I use my Chromebook a lot.

Duo is the Facetime-for-Android app that I never wanted because I never wanted Facetime on Android. I was perfectly happy with Hangouts and its ability to handle both one-on-one and group video calls. In fact, I still am. Again, best feature is the encryption.

I do admit that some folks will be happier using these new apps instead of their predecessors as these apps will be tied to telephone numbers, making them easier for some to use than the friend-list/invite based Hangouts.

However, some folks brought up a good point about Duo’s screening feature being possibly abused.


Android and ChromeOS convergence

Google Play and Android apps are coming to Chromebooks. Just not my Chromebook. My HP Chromebook 14 isn’t on the list of supported hardware. It is an older machine, but I already do run the previously supported Android versions of Evernote and one or two other apps. So while the announcement is really cool, it’s personally disappointing. My book runs really well and I don’t have much interest in upgrading right now, the new functionality notwithstanding.

I did flirt with the idea of upgrading, but that was because the screen wasn’t working properly. Well, the third one. Once I fixed that, the idea of going to a different Chromebook went completely away. They may be forcing the hands of those who may really want Android functionality on their Chromebooks, but they’re not necessarily forcing mine. As of now, it’s a want, but not a must have.

The irony, though, is I may wait until fall and get a Chromebox that run Android apps, if this functionality ends up being too appealing. In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere unless something happens to my current machine.

On a less personal note, I think this is a win for Google. They may not have been totally right about the web browser being all one needed outside of the phone and tablet form factor spaces, but I think they’re still right that you don’t necessarily need a full-blown operating system, (i.e. Windows or MacOS) all the time, for every case. Today’s announcement feels like a compromise and a step forward for ChromeOS.

Time will tell, but if once Android Instant Apps reach circulation, and Chromebooks have the ability to run said apps the way phones and tablets can, well, and in ways that satisfy enough use cases, Google will still have been ultimately right overall. In 5-10 years, we may think that the Chromebook was ahead of its time now, and for a world with a mix of fully downloadable and on-demand apps, the right tech for those times when you really need a keyboard and mouse. We’ll see.


In the more now space, I was excited by the announcement of the nComputing Chromebook CX100. As my employer has used nComputing devices to deliver (oh, God, I’m getting into tech marketing babble) a full Windows desktop for students at the alternative high school it operates, I’m familiar with nComputing’s thin clients and software, which have been pretty rock solid. That they were putting out a Chromebook was really exciting because one of the complaints that has been raised in recent times is students being tethered to the thin clients in the computer labs to get work done.

My employer had tried Windows laptops, which ended up being a disaster for reasons I won’t go into now. Since then, they’ve thrown around the idea of using iPads or other laptops to fill this need of mobility around the school, but haven’t settled on anything.

But when I saw the CX100, I thought all their problems had been solved — the school could have the mobility they wanted along with access to Windows without all the extra maintenance (blood pressure rising) a set of Windows laptops would require. (And yes, I know there are a ton of tools out there for managing Windows machines and if you’d like to donate to my employer to pay for that, I may make a link available).

And when I saw the nComputing app that makes it all possible in the Chrome store and compatible with my own Chromebook, I got happy (blood pressure lowering). The school might not have to specifically use the nComputing hardware, but could probably get any Chromebook (serotonin release).

Now with the announcement of Google Play and Android apps coming to ChromeOS, I’m fighting to think of any reason why, for use in the school environment that I have to support, a Windows laptop or an iPad would be necessarily better than a Chromebook with access to both Android and Windows apps via nComputing software. I just can’t. And that’s what the future could be.

It may take some time for Android app developers to standardize their work for Chromebooks, but with a combination of Chrome web apps, Android apps, and Windows apps available at the expense of only lower-cost Chromebooks, I can’t think of a better situation to be in. My employer could continue to leverage the investment (more tech marketing babble, oh no) it’s made in Windows and still get mobility (I promise to write a poem to make up for all this talk) and a wider selection of apps with Chrome and Android.

A few years ago, my employer purchased a good number of HP thin clients for employees to use to connect to remote Windows virtual machines. I’m struggling to come up with a reason why, as those need to be replaced, they can’t be with Chromeboxes, should they decide to use nComputing software on the corporate remote end like it’s done for the school.

It’s a very interesting time for tech, especially on the educational side.