Google’s annual developer’s conference kicked-off yesterday with some fairly big announcements from the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco, California. As 5,000 web, mobile, and enterprise developers packed in for the two-day event, Google provided the “State of Android” speech that everyone was expecting.
With over 100 million Android devices already activated and roughly 400,000 new ones registered each day, Google’s mobile OS is truly making some huge strides against their nearest competitor, Apple. In the app department, Google does not disappoint, with 200,000 apps available via Google’s Market as well as Amazon’s new Appstore for Android.
The biggest announcements from Day 1 of I/O seemingly patched up Google’s strategy for media sales and consumption on Android-powered devices, a substantial vulnerability for the Android platform when compared to Apple’s robust iTunes. ‘Music Beta by Google‘ was announced as an invite-only beta service, offering cloud-based storage for up to 20,000 user-uploaded tracks, quite a bump over Amazon’s similar Cloud Drive service, which offers 5GB of storage for streaming.
Google Music launched with nary a single record label on board, so users will not be able to purchase tracks directly. ‘Google Movies,’ available via the Android Market, sounds a bit more ready for prime-time.
Available initially in the US market only, a well-stocked library of new releases can be streamed to your smartphone or tablet device starting at $1.99. Rentals can last up to 30 days and you’ll get 24 hours to watch them repeatedly from your first play. Interestingly, movies can also be downloaded for offline-use. With a fairly strong library at launch and rental prices that are far more attractive than iTunes, I’d say this piece of the content puzzle was plugged nicely.
Also announced was a one-two punch of OS-updates for both smartphones and tablets running the Android mobile OS. With no launch date pegged, smartphone users running Android can look forward to 2.4, or as it is also known, ‘Ice Cream Sandwich.’ Android 2.4 will carry over UI elements from Honeycomb, Google’s tablet OS. With the upgrade you can expect sliding widgets, holographic UI and a task launcher.
Additional Near Field Communication will be added in the update, too. Perhaps the biggest announcement in the smartphone arena, is Google’s new development tools that should help deal with one of the biggest complaints: platform fragmentation. With over 300 different Android devices out there, running different flavors and versions of Android, it can be a real headache developing apps, so this is surely a welcome fix for conference attendees.
Tablets got some love as well, with Android Honeycomb 3.1’s announcement, the first official update for tablets. Rolling out now to Verizon Xoom 3G customers, other carriers should start seeing over-the-air updates during the next few weeks. The update brings some welcome fixes to the OS as well as some performance enhancements and UI adjustments.
Another much-needed fix: better USB support. With spotty support for USB devices from launch, Google patched things up for a smoother experience. Interestingly, the company also announced their Android Open Accessory strategy, which will enable the creation of accessories that will work with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread and Android 3.1 Honeycomb devices.
Google gave an example of plugging a phone into a LifeCycle exercise machine, with an app called Cardio Quest. The exercise bike recognized that it was connected to a phone. The application programming interface then can control the bike and the game a rider is going to play as he bikes. Along with the Android Open Accessory strategy, Google also released a hardware and software reference design to get accessory makers going.
Certainly some great announcements from Day 1. Stay tuned for more as the Google I/O 2011 conference continues.