anybody’s everybody’s guess what Google’s got up its sleeve for its annual I/O developer conference that starts this morning in San Francisco–and it’s even less certain whether what it does announce will change the world or flop. Last year, it debuted Google TV, which has met with yawns from consumers, though it’s too early to write it off yet. The year before, in introduced Wave, a collaboration service that Google shut down last year.
This year, the search giant will announce plans for an online music service, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s also likely to go into detail on “Ice Cream,” the next version of its Android operating system for mobile devices that’s supposed to merge the smartphone and tablet versions that exist today. Rumor has it that Google and Samsung will announce a netbook powered by Google’s Chrome OS. There also may be a bit of an update on Google TV.
Whatever Google announces, I’ll be liveblogging the morning keynote and any other significant events here, starting in about 15 minutes. You can also view the keynotes and major sessions at Google’s I/O Live site. And see whether anything to be announced here will knock Andreessen’s Revenge off the top of Techmeme. Warning: This will be on the geeky side, given the audience of software developers.
And we’re underway. Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra comes on, introduced like a rock star (which he is in this crowd). First he launches into the usual recap of accomplishments from past I/O events. “Who could forget last year?” he says, to some laughs (though he’s talking about Android, not Google TV).
Now it’s Hugo Barra, director of Android product development, talking about “Momentum, Mobile, and More.”
Momentum: Loud video of how much Android has grown. 100 million Android device activations now! 310 devices in 312 countries. From 100,000 new activations a year ago, now 400,000 a day. Now 200,000 apps in the Android Market. Took Android two years to get the first billion app installs. Took 5 months to second billion. Now 1 billion in less than 60 days, for a total of 4.5 billion.
Mobile: For this, Amit Aggarwalla on the demos and Mike Cleron from the Android development team. He announces Android 3.1, the new version also known as Honeycomb. Widgets can now be scrolled vertically and horizontally, an announcement that draws some “oohs.” Cheers when he announces support for joysticks and other input devices.
Google TV will be getting the Android Market so developers will be able to develop apps for Google TV using the same Honeycomb code base.
And he announces the next Android release, Ice Cream Sandwich, which is slated to be released in the fourth quarter. “We want one OS that runs anywhere.” Promises state of the art user interface, advanced app framework (new APIs to scale apps across all UIs, new developer tools), and it will all be open source (many cheers).
Demo: As the demo guy moves, so does the perspective on his screen because he has some device that senses where he is. Another: Virtual Camera Operator: The software can automatically determine who’s speaking and camera zooms in on that face–then can switch to another person when he talks.
Now it’s on to “More,” which will be cloud services. Chris Yerga from the Android Cloud Services team says users will be able to rent movies from Android Market and instantly stream them to their Android devices. Thousands of titles. Movies home page on Android Market. 30-day rental period to rent it, 24 hours to watch once you start watching. $1.99 to $3.99 a pop. You can download them too. High-definition. Funny, the typeface on the movie page sure looks like Netflix’s typeface. He shows the app on a tablet and phone too.
Now, drum roll… music! Paul Joyce of Google: Music Beta by Google (unfinished nature of it in the official title!). You can store your music in the cloud, like you can with Amazon’s similar service. Music Manager lets you choose what to upload–not just songs but playlists, artists, etc. Instant Mix creates a playlist based on one song–it selects 25 songs from your library that fits with them–similar tracks based on how they sound. And, no need to sync with a laptop like with iTunes.
What if you’re offline? For one, the service caches music you recently played. And you can select songs, artists and playlists you want to save offline.
When can you get it? Launching in beta today. Initially invite-only to U.S. users. Can add up to 20,000 songs to the library. It will be free in beta (though he’s not promising free after that). Check it out.
Not least, Google announces its key device and telecom partners will agree to update Android versions more consistently–a big deal for developers given the slow pace of updates (and the difficulty of getting apps to work properly on all of them out there).
And now for more More: Matt (sorry, missed his name) and Joe Britt come on to announce some hardware stuff. First Mike announces Android Open Accessory, which will add APIs to add a wide variety of Android accessory devices. Even an exercise bike, which Amit tries out.
Joe Britt comes out to talk about an “even larger accessory”–your entire home: Android At Home. Android apps can discover, connect, and communicate with appliances and other devices at home. If appliances don’t have wireless (um, like all of them?), there’s going to be a protocol to allow Android devices to connect with them somehow. Amit demonstrates controlling of lights this way. Could make game playing more immersive. Or you could control the irrigation system to have a real-world FarmVille game (so your plants really die if you blow it; great).
Now Britt is talking about Project Tungsten, a sort of home music hub for Android–or so I understand. You can synchronize your music throughout your house, for instance. (Bigger houses than mine.)
Barra shows the new Galaxy Tab from Samsung–which all 5,000 attendees here will get (at least the developers). Biggest cheers yet, no surprise. And that’s a wrap.