Three weeks after thousands of software programmers converged on San Francisco for Apple Inc. AAPL -1.03% ‘s developer conference, a similar crowd will descend this week for Google Inc. GOOG +0.26% ‘s version.
Called I/O, the Google conference promises to be much broader in scope than Apple’s, reflecting the ambitions of Chief Executive Larry Page. Apple focused on new software for phones and tablets, but Google’s confab will touch on TVs, cars, watches and thermostats, all of which host some version of Google’s software.
Developers attending the conference—which starts Wednesday—will be looking for more outlets for their apps, more ways to get paid for them and hints on where Google is going next.
Such conferences are crucial to the long-term future of companies like Google and Apple, which own the operating systems that power most of the world’s mobile devices. They need to entice developers to create great apps so the devices appeal to consumers.
Google’s Android operating system has been doing well. Four of every five smartphones shipped world-wide last year run Android. Another sign of Google’s success: As the number of Android phones climbed past one billion last year, the number of app downloads from Google’s Play Store surpassed those for Apple’s App Store for the first time.
One big theme at the conference is expected to be the additional screens Google is opening to developers, on watches, TVs, and cars. Attendees are expected to get their first chance to try Android Wear, Google’s new software for wearable devices that it introduced earlier this year.
They also are hoping to see how new Google software called Android TV might give them an opportunity to get their apps and games on the living-room screen. One potential boost: a rumored Google set-top box using the Android TV software.
The promise of “seamless” game play between a smartphone and a television is compelling, says Matt Small, co-founder of mobile-game company Vector Unit. He says that could help companies like his find greater distribution for their games.
Others are hungry for more details about Google’s alliance with car makers including Honda Motor Co. 7267.TO -0.86% and General Motors Co. GM -0.41% , which is expected to bring Android to cars sometime this year.
The developers creating apps for all these outlets are also hoping that Google can help them make money.
“They need to bring monetization up to par with rivals,” said Omar Siddiqui, chief executive of mobile game company Kiwi. He says Google needs to make it easier for users to make impulse purchases through its store.
Google still struggles to generate as much revenue from each user of its mobile devices as Apple, which has been collecting credit-card numbers since the early days of the iPod. Google is trying to catch up by adding payment options like eBay Inc. EBAY -0.52% ‘s PayPal service, says Jamie Rosenberg, the executive in charge of Google’s Play store where apps are sold.
New on Google’s docket: Nest Labs. Google earlier this year bought the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors. Nest hopes to power many more devices in the home, a point underlined by its acquisition Friday of video-surveillance startup Dropcam Inc. With Nest software powering more devices, developers may find it helps them create apps for home gadgets.
Not to be forgotten among all the new products Google is lining up will be its core search engine, including related products like Google Maps and smart personal assistant Google Now. These should continue to see improvements thanks in part to hundreds of millions of dollars the company has invested in advanced artificial intelligence technology, which should power more effective voice and image recognition among other features.
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