Google I/O 2011 Wrap-Up

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Goodbye Google I/O 2011, See You Next Year!

So I woke up with a set of aches in places I didn’t even know I could ache… and… new electronics?  Where was I the last couple of days, anyway, and why do I now have more goodies rather than wake up with fewer personal personal possessions?

This was Google I/O 2011, the annual developers’ conference where Google shares their way of doing things with a few thousand very, very lucky attendees.  For two days Mountain View comes to Moscone West, complete with snack bins.  Most of the people there are interested in developing some kind of product that uses some of Google’s many, many features, apps, and gizmos, but a few pretty much admit they came because of the swag.

Brief History of Swag at Google I/O

Google I/O 2008 had one Keynote speech, and Android phones were a presentation, not a giveaway.  For Google I/O 2009, every attendee received a “Google Ion” phone, which was a special edition HTC Magic running Android 1.5.  Last year, every attendee received one of two Android phones, a Nexus One or a Motorola DROID, before the conference even began.  Then at the second day keynote, they were told they’d get a not-yet-released-to-the-public HTC Evo 4G as well. These incredible giveaways have induced a lot of code warriors and gadget collectors to try to score tickets this year.  The event sold out in less than an hour.

Rumors were flying all over that everyone would get a phone and an Android tablet this year, and which phone and which tablet changed constantly.  Theories included the pile of supposedly unsold Motorola Xooms, the unnamed Toshiba ten inch tablet, the HTC Flyer/Evo 4G, and even the we-can’t -meet-demand Asus Transformer.  Phone rumors were less solid, with most assuming the device would be either a Nexus S or something not yet released, such as, say, the HTC EVO 3D.  There were also guesses that the freebies would include new Google TV devices, or those CR-48 Chrome notebooks so many of us tried to score through the pilot program.

Google I/O Day 1: It’s All About Android

Watch the entire presentation right here!  Even if you don’t want to sit through a fifty minute presentation, you can at least watch the clock count down to zero and explode!

Google I/O 2011 Day 1 Keynote Video: Android!


You can read my previous pieces on the run-up to the event, and how Day 1 went (which included the Android Keynote by Hugh Barra and the Press Q&A afterwards), but here’s a quick summary:

  • Android’s amazing growth: 310 different devices, 100 million total activated devices, 400 thousand new devices activated each day, 200,000 apps in the Android Market, and 4.5 billion apps installed from the Market
  • Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb) will be updated to 3.1, starting with the Motorola Xoom
  • Announcement of Ice Cream Sandwich (no release number given, I would guess 3.5 or 4.0) that merges the smartphone and tablet platforms back together from the current Gingerbread/Honeycomb bifurcation
  • Music Beta, invitations beginning today to I/O attendees
  • Movie Rentals on Android Market on the web, coming to the OS 3.1 (Honeycomb) update and soon to OS 2.2 (Froyo) and above
  • New partnership with OEMs and carriers to ensure OS upgrades for 18 months after smartphone releases
  • The Android Open Accessory kit based on Arduino, including the [email protected] initiative bringing home control from your Android device
  • And, oh yeah, you are all getting the won’t-be-released-for-a-month Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet.  Today.

Almost lost in the excitement was that there was another impressive item being given out to all attendees.  When we picked up our tablets, the Google Gear team handed out these blue cards, telling us to turn them in tomorrow for “a SIM card.”  I was wondering why I needed a SIM card for what I thought was a Wi-Fi only tablet, until I actually read what they handed me.

Since when does Verizon, a CDMA carrier, use SIM cards?  It took me more than a few seconds to work that one out, and I was quite pleased when I did.  It was going to go quite well with this new toy, shown here still in the box.

One thing we learned later on the first day, at the Android Fireside Chat, was that the little green robot has a name, and it is not Andy.  It’s called BugDroid.  Yes, BugDroid.  Maybe if I mention BugDroid enough times the Android gods over at Google will notice our Google Bomb and invite more of our staff to cover this event next year!  BugDroid!  Although who ever heard of a BugDroid pattern on an iPhone case?

There were plenty of sessions to keep any Android developer busy, and those going to the “secret” Android Open Accessory session found themselves with the ADK board and shield required to start building some awesome stuff.  This site is selling the controller boards, but they won’t be in for two months.  I’m sure the Android game controlled by pedalling a Life Fitness exercise bike, or the tablet-controlled labyrinth on steroids that dominated the third floor of Moscone West, is just the beginning.  (Thanks to Daniel Pham for taking this fantastic photo above.  The others were all snapped by my Motorola Droid X.)

Party On

The close of Day 1 brought an after-hours party where the keynote area was turned into the biggest geek playground you could imagine while Jane’s Addiction kept the music going.  Just as the beginning of the keynote showed us live views from Google I/O viewing parties around the world, this event shared images just taken at the photo booth on screens throughout the party, but I found my thrill at the collection of vintage pinball machines on loan from the Pacific Pinball Museum.  And not only could we play them, no quarters were required.

I’ll stick to Day 2 from here on, plus an after-event I think you’ll find intriguing.

Google I/O Day 2: Chrome vs Android isn’t a Deathmatch, But They’re Definitely in Each Others’ Way on the Road to World Domination

Day 1’s Keynote was dedicated to our favorite Green Robot.  Day 2 was all about Chrome, both the web browser and the OS that’s running Google’s latest innovation: a notebook using Chrome as an operating system.  We have more detail on the Day 2 keynote, or you can watch the entire presentation here:

Google I/O 2011 Day 2 Keynote: Chrome


Summary of this not-at-all-about-Android keynote by Sundar Pichai and his team:

  • Chrome has grown, 160 million users, just released version 12
  • We keep making it work better
  • If you sell for it in the Chrome store, we take 5%
  • Angry Birds now on the web, in Chrome Store, for free!
  • Introducing the Chromebook, the result of the CR-48 pilot program.
  • Two models, one 12.1 inch screen by Samsung, one 11.6 inch screen by Acer, either Wi-Fi only or with 3G as well
  • These are not just consumer items, we have program for business and education to use them for a monthly fee over 3 years; $28 per user in workplace, $20 per user in education, includes warranty/replacement and support.
  • We need to get the word out on how great these are, so all of you here are getting one.

So the Chromebook rumor was true, too!  I don’t have any more information yet on when or how those are being given out to Google I/O attendees, but they will go on sale in seven countries starting June 15th if all goes on schedule.

What’s Up with the Market?

Right after the keynote was a big Android Market session, which I chose to skip since it was streamed live and the Keynote press Q&A was not going to be recorded at all.  During the Q&A I keep wondering if these two huge, ambitious teams, Chrome and Android, have any idea of the others’ plans.  A few questions come close to asking whether they are competing against each other, but the team members seem almost surprised by the premise.

The previous day, several questioners were told to ask the Chrome Team about any coming merger between Chrome and Android.  The Chrome team isn’t giving that idea much credence.  There’s no Chrome Browser on Android, and they don’t seem concerned about there not being one, but hey, the Android browser does share some code with Chrome.  Besides, Chrome is growing up, from a browser into a Web Operating System, and they can’t be bothered with the components of a different operating system.  But it is odd to hear them explain why configuring Windows or Mac devices is too painful and Chromebooks would make this so easy.  What about those 5000 tablets they just handed out yesterday?

Fresh from the Android Market talk, Eric Chu and Chris Yerga head to the press briefing room for a Q&A.  Chu hadn’t even heard the announcement that Google was going to charge 5% flat fees for revenues in the Chrome Store, but did clarify that most of the 30% fee taken for Android apps goes to the carriers, a very necessary part of that ecosystem.

The “Oprah Moment” with More Surprise Swag for Some

After lunch is the Android Game Development session, and all the attendees are presented with Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphones.  At least this wasn’t a “secret” talk, I saw the sign for it several times as I debated which sessions to check out.

As I decide to check out who from the Android team is keeping Office Hours, I notice a few people coming up the escalator to the second floor from the first holding small boxes.  The mobile hotspots are being given out, so I decide to investigate, for journalistic purposes only.

And the Expected Swag is Better Than Expected

There’s a long line that snakes around the open first floor, but unlike the escalator line this morning, everyone is moving at a really brisk walk, so I head down to find the end the queue, and man, they are all moving. The Gear People tell us to have our blue cards ready to turn in, and they’re moving us through the line four at a time, trade your card for a box, they stick a SIM card-on-a-bigger-card on top, and boom, done.  Score!  Let’s see what we have.

It’s Verizon with a SIM card, because it’s a 4G/LTE mobile hotspot.  The blue card didn’t say 4G, but that explained the SIM card, because a 3G hotspot wouldn’t need the SIM card.  Lucky me, I live in a 4G/LTE area, too.  And look how small that thing is, the SIM card punch-out holder is about the size of a credit card.  I install the battery, pull out the USB cord and start charging it up, whoops, why did they tell us to install the battery, charge it, and then install the SIM card?  Open it up and let’s try this again!  And we’re in business pretty quick as I seem to be the first one in the Press Lounge to get it going and start sucking down the limited Gs in Moscone West.

There, now all the gear is working together: hotspot and tablet!  I even remember to bring up the right website for this picture.  Not much I can do about those overhead lights, though.  The USB cord is connected to power, not the tablet; this was the only way to get it working right out of the box.

Google I/O 2011 Draws to a Triumphant Close with a Case of the Giggles

Once I’m satisfied it’s working, I head off to the last session for the day, and for that matter the conference.  People are starting to break things down as we get out (wouldn’t it have been cool if they handed out Motorola Droid Pros at the Take Android to Work presentation?  Just saying.) so this is everyone’s last chance to see the few exhibits that are still running.

The controlled fun that has been Google I/O 2011 is hit with a wave of glee as someone decides to put the turtle robot in the giant labyrinth, and while that’s happening, the bigger robot is going to get a chance to control the whole thing using the tablet front end.

I head over to my last event for the day, a party sponsored by LG.  When I checked out their booth on the first day, a steady stream of people came to visit, not to play with their smartphones, but to ask about this party and could they be invited to it.  Good thing I’m already on the list as they’re slowly letting people in off a wait list.  I get handed what I thought was a raffle ticket with number #81 on it.  I found out it’s actually a voucher for one of these.

This is a developers’ version of the upcoming LG Optimus 3D, which is, yes, a 3D glasses-free smartphone.  It is also a blazingly fast smartphone.  Look at this!  2420 on Quadrant benchmark right out of the box!  By the way, that is 32% faster than the dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 powered Galaxy Tab 10.1, which I tested at 1835.  They both whup my ancient Motorola DROID X which scored in the 1300s.

The owner of this phone above also made the discovery that it has quadband HSPA+.  Now this is a developers’ version, so we don’t know that what’s released on retail shelves will be able to blaze data on both AT&T and T-Mobile, but we’ll let you know as soon as we find out.  I am seeing this same phone for sale on some websites I never heard of, for between $800 and $900, “in stock soon.”

LG gave out over a hundred Optimus 3Ds at this event, to press and key developers who they want to do some work with their 3D features.  Other attendees won a phone by their ability to ask a decent question to Henry Noh, who gave us a fantastic presentation on 3D imagery and how LG implemented it on the Optimus 3D.  Here’s a few of the party guests eagerly letting the LG team know that they had some great questions to ask, if only they were called upon.  By the end of the voucher run, half these people were standing.

We will definitely have a complete review of this phone out for you soon!  Stephanie, the LG Girl, wants us to keep you informed.  She is also pleased by some Android networking that got her to 2500 twitter followers in 25 minutes.

So that’s it for Google I/O 2011.  Let us know what you thought of our live coverage of this event, and how we can do an even better job letting you know about Google I/O 2012.

Photo Credits: Google Ion smartphone, CNET; Labyrinth, Daniel Pham