I've been told by the powers on high at TechRepublic that the last week of December is a week for prognosticating, pontificating, and presumption (and, possibly, alliteration). To take stock of what Google has done in 2011, to assess what it wants to do in 2012, and guess at how it will try to get it done. This is exciting for many reasons.
A decent Android tablet with an eye for business
Google chairman Eric Schmidt said in an interview with an Italian magazine that Google planned to market (in rough translation) a high-quality tablet in the next six months. If we take Schmidt to mean that Google plans to partner with a hardware partner to create a kind of best-of-breed, benchmark-setting tablet, similar to the role of Google's Nexus line of Android phones, then it could be quite the interesting move.
I've used three of the most prominent (and expensive) Android tablets made so far, the Motorola XOOM and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, in both its 7-inch and 10.1-inch versions. None of these tablets are, shall we say, making waves, or causing me to recommend anything other than the iPad to those seeking tablet advice. But with Ice Cream Sandwich, Android's 4.0 release, and a tablet that Google itself is invested in, an Android tablet might just a chance at competing against the only tablet that matters right now. The biggest challenge, really, is getting developers interested and excited in developing apps specifically for larger Android tablet screens. Secondary to that is getting big firms interested in developing customized tablets to their employees.
More powers for Google+ Page administrators
Right now, Pages in Google+ are a stop-gap solution to letting businesses and brands make their presence known on Google's young and scrappy social network. One person, tied to one Google+ personal account, creates a Page for an organization or entity, and that person alone uses that Page like a second account: posting, commenting, adding people to circles, and so on. So it's pretty easy for Google to improve its Pages, because everything needs to be improved.
Google+ will work quickly to give third-party developers access to important APIs, and will allow multiple users to administer a Google+ Page. It will give Google+ Pages the ability to do unique things that individuals cannot do: video-chat Hangouts beyond 10 participants, perhaps, or tight integration and monitoring from Google Apps installations. Pages need to do something new, and rather quickly, because they don't do much else at the moment.
A bigger push on Chromebooks, in a different direction
Tech writers, especially those covering gadgets, are quick to write off entire product lines as "dead" if big sales figures don't follow about six months after big launches. But Google's Chromebook effort is something else entirely. It wasn't a really huge push to begin with, and it's part of a larger strategy of getting big business to see Google as an able carrier of their enterprise data.
Google could do a few different things--drastically subsidize its monthly fees for businesses to lease Chromebooks is one idea, but a push into the education market, where IT and upgrade costs are definitely felt, might be another move. Either way, I wouldn't expect Google to give up on Chromebooks in 2012.
Smarter contact management and fix-ups
Actually, this one's a bit of a crutch. I wish for this every single year, as do a dedicated crew of Google Apps installers I know. And every year, people ask us what to do about their quadruple copies of contacts and unpredictable device syncing, and we end up telling them some version of, "Be grateful their Google user image didn't get swapped with yours, because that can happen, too."
Google makes it nice and easy to transfer contacts from existing Outlook/Exchange accounts, and from stand-alone computer address books. If it could focus on giving Contacts, a service at the core of everything the search giant will ever do, a bit of much-needed love and attention to detail, there would be one less reason to think of the cloud as a thin layer.
Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.