Google IO 2017: dates, rumors and news for Google's big developer conference

Android O, Google Home and more take the stage May 17-19

Update: Google has already done some streamlining of its myriad chat apps, announcing in March plans to shutter Google Talk for good, pull SMS support from Hangouts and remove some of the quirky Lab experiments from Gmail.

This is in an effort to "focus and prioritize" on the features and apps Google deems more important, and could be just the start of a chat service spring cleaning we'll learn more about at IO.

It's time once again to begin gearing up for Google IO, the search giant's annual developer conference that's always full of surprises. Actually, scratch that: Google is calling this year's event an "outdoor developer festival", so grab your party hat and get ready to celebrate all things Android, Chrome, and more.

The Google IO 2017 dates are May 17 through May 19, and it's all going down at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., where the gathering was held in 2016. 

We're still digesting everything Google announced at last year's edition, including Google Assistant, Google Home, the Allo and Duo apps, details on Android Nougat (though it didn't have that name at the time), the Daydream VR platform, Android Wear 2.0 and Android Instant Apps. 

This year's event looks to be just as exciting, or at least we're led to believe there will be extra pep in Google's step due to how the IO dates and location were revealed; earlier this year, Google came up with an elaborate puzzle for developers to solve to unearth the details. 

If you're a developer and interested in Google IO 2017 registration, hop over to the Google IO website to begin the sign-up process (note: you must be invited to register). 

While this "festival" is geared towards developers, it's also relevant for anyone interested in Android, Chrome, phones, tablets, smart home devices, new applications, virtual reality and, among other moonshots, self-driving cars

To get ready for the main event, read on for all the news and rumors we've heard so far about Google IO 2017! 

Say hello to Android O

The star of IO, as is tradition, will be the newest flavor of Android. Following in alphabetic order – Android Nougat is the most recent release – Google will officially welcome Android O come May.

While we don't know the next version of Android's official name yet (are we in for another submission process?), Android Oreo seems to be the front-runner right now.

What will likely happen is Google will talk about its next mobile OS update at IO, yet hold off launching it till later in the year. Considering Android 7.0 Nougat didn't publicly release until August 2016, this will probably be the case for Android O. 

But what exactly are we in for with Android O? Christmas came early as Google announced the Android O developer preview in mid-March, giving us a look at some early features available in the operating system.

One of the most exciting features of the build, which is targeted at developers, is "Background limits". This will make apps less taxing on your device's battery by making limits more transparent to developers. The feature looks to do for your battery life what Data Saver did for wireless bills. 

There's also picture-in-picture for watching videos while doing other tasks, updates to notifications, including snooze, and animation support for all app icons. 

One final Android O goodie of note is that Sony worked with Google to bring the company's LDAC codec to Android O devices, which will deliver improved audio quality over Bluetooth for your listening pleasure.  

As Android looks to stay competitive with the iOS operating system, look for Google to talk up any and all ways Android O bests Apple's platform.

What's the word on Android Wear 2.0?

Android Wear 2.0 launched in February, so while it's unlikely for Google to announce a major update to its revamped wearable operating system at IO, we expect there to be some talk related to the wrist. 

For starters, if Android Wear 2.0 hasn't arrived on all old smartwatches by then, we could be in for an announcement regarding that very thing. 

We wouldn't be surprised if Android Wear 2.0 apps are announced either, and we could even see a brand-new smartwatch. No rumblings of said watch have started yet, but there's plenty of time before the show. 

With Motorola the biggest hold out of the latest version of Android Wear to date, perhaps a spectacular Google IO reveal is in store? Just a thought.

Google Home invasion

Google introduced its first smart speaker at Google IO 2016 in the form of Google Home (how many times can you write "Google" in a sentence, amiright?), and this year could see an updated version of the device or new features available to the original.

The strongest rumor to date is that Google is planning to add phone calling to Home, allowing users to communicate via voice through the speaker. 

Considering Google already has its Project Fi and Google Voice services up and running, it may not be too much of a stretch for Google Home to suddenly find its calling chops. Phone calling is also reportedly in the running for chief rival Amazon Echo, which does put the pressure on Google to deliver the feature sooner rather than later.

Another possible feature for Google Home is multiple user support, which we could see introduced at IO. 

Google Chrome improvement

Another area of focus at Google IO will be Chrome, and could include everything from new Chromebooks to improved browser features. 

The most likely developments we'll hear about though are features such as Android apps working on all future Chromebooks. As Google and other tech giants look to more closely tie mobile and computing operating systems together, Google will almost certainly discuss how it's accomplishing this for the benefit of developers, and the audience watching at home.

New Pixel phones? Perhaps

Google just announced the Pixel and Pixel XL phones in October 2016, but rumors have been heating up that already the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL and even a Pixel XXL (though we doubt it will be called that) are in the works.

It's possible Google could unveil new mobile devices at IO 2017, though we're putting this in the not-very-likely category. 

Not only is the distance just a little too close to the first devices' release, but Google's head of hardware said Google is planning to stick to an annual release cycle with the devices, which puts a launch date later in the year. He did, however, confirm new Pixel smartphones are coming, so at least we have that.

Virtual reality, Chromecast and everything else

There's no doubt Google will announce products, services and/or updates outside of these core categories at IO 2017. Here's what else we may see:

Though, like Pixel, it may be too early for the Google Daydream View 2, there's a strong chance we'll have news on the VR front from the Big G. Perhaps a headset price reduction, or updates in how developers create and publish content for virtual reality? 

With Google Play looking to promote great apps and games across all hardware platforms, we wouldn't be surprised to see plenty of time devoted to this very topic in front of the developer crowd.

On the home entertainment front, whispers are circulating that Google Assistant may become available on more third-party devices, expanding its roots beyond the Nvidia Shield 2017, where the digital helper already makes a home. This would certainly make sense to do, and an announcement on additional partners could be in the cards. 

Other possibilities include updates to Android TV, though those will likely be minor if any are announced. 

We could also be in for a new Chromecast things have been relatively quiet regarding the streaming disc since the Chromecast Ultra went on sale. 

The last potential IO agenda item we can speak to with some authority right now is Hangouts, and by a larger measure, all of Google's messaging platforms. 

Google recently announced two new Hangouts offerings geared towards enterprise users – Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat – but there was quickly confusion as to whether the consumer version of Hangouts would stick around or, as was suggested, the newer Duo and Allo apps would take the place of average-user chat services.

This is not even to mention the revamped Google Voice service Google rolled out in January.

There are clearly too many Google-branded messaging platforms, and perhaps Google will finally be ready to drop what's not working and focus on making a few great chat offerings. In fact, it already started a chat app clearing out in late March.

This is still somewhat wishful thinking given Google's track record, but IO could be a turning point for Google, one where it stops introducing new chat apps and starts building robust platforms everyone actually wants to use.