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Google I/O: What to Expect

Google I/O should be packed with news for consumers.

Like so many developer conferences, Google I/O is a big deal even if you've never programmed a line of code. With Google's software tentacles extending to smartphones and tablets with Android, televisions with Google TV and laptops with Chrome OS, Google I/O should be packed with news for the consumer tech world. Here's what to expect from Google I/O, a two-day conference that begins on May 10:

Android Ice Cream (Sandwich)

For months, we've known that Google's next Android version will merge smartphones and tablets, but most of the discussion until now has focused on what this version will be called. Is it "Ice Cream Sandwich," or just straight-up "Ice Cream?"

Who cares? Presumably, Google I/O will have all the answers on what could be the most significant Android update to date. Former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has said each new software release will be "accompanied by a hardware component," so maybe we'll see a new Nexus smartphone to match.

Chrome OS

Google I/O may finally be the launch pad for commercial Chrome OS hardware. Google's browser-based operating system debuted last year on the CR-48, a pilot program laptop that will not be sold to the public.

Since then, we've heard that Acer and Samsung are planning Chrome OS notebooks, and that tablet support is on the way. According to eWeek, Google and Samsung are holding a press event the evening after Google I/O, possibly for the debut of the first commercial Chrome OS hardware. The conference should shed some light on the matter.

Google TV

Don't expect huge things out of Google TV at the conference, but do expect to learn of new developments on the nascent Internet television platform. GigaOM reports that Google will provide a glimpse of Google TV 2.0, running software based on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, even though the update won't arrive until later this year.

Until now, the platform's been dragged down by usability issues, expensive hardware and blockage by broadcast television Websites. The revamp will probably bring Android apps into the living room, while making the software easier to operate. ARM-based processor support could bring down costs as well.

Social: No Go?

Google's social networking ambitions are no secret, but the nature of the company's efforts to compete with Facebook are still a mystery.

Since the Google Buzz backlash in February 2010, all we've seen on the social front is +1, an answer to Facebook's "Like" button. Now, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington says not to expect any social announcements at Google I/O.

Follow Jared on Facebook and Twitter as well as Today @ PCWorld for even more tech news and commentary.

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