Post Google Android Keynote Press Q&A at Google I/O 2011

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Press Q&A after Google I/O 2011 Keynote

Here at press briefing room at Google I/O 2011, the table area is completely filled up and press sitting in aisles plugging into the walls. We're all here to ask some questions about what was raised at the Android Keynote that was delivered just minutes ago.   I am in the back row literally got one of last 3 spots at a table and had to hunt up some chairs for me and the guy from InfoWeek who watched my laptop while i did.

Andy Rubin, Joe Britt, Chris Yurga, more names go by; it's not like they cared we got their names, either they expected us to already know or they would have put it up on a slide.  Well, we all knew who Andy Rubin was.

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They mention the "ambient music" getting five stars on the Google Music cloud playlist.  And the press starts in with their questions.

Andy, talk about general Honeycomb code release.
We did internal trick to make available, skipped the phones.  Didn't want people putting it in the phones.  We are going to rework those things for the code release and the re-merging of tablet, phone and television source code.

Interfaces for Ice Cream Sandwich to reduce fragmentation issues, New APIs will be added, long presses going away for action bar.  Unification of the APIs as well as helper functionality.  Session later today will have more detail'

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How does Music plan fit into selling music?  What are you doing about royalties and licensing?
Unfortunately labels had unreasonable and unsustainable terms (a couple of the labels). Well we have ideas with labels who are interested in partnering with us, the majority of labels are excited by the possibilities.  This service we launched is legal as it is for music you already own, storing your own music in the Cloud, a much more convenient experience.

Are you saying no Honeycomb phone but Ice Cream Sandwich phone?  And the 18 month updates, then what? Do I throw it away?
Yes, for phones, Ice Cream Sandwich is when you will see this functionality.  Looks like questioner thought no updates for 18 months, not supported updates for 18 months.  Hiroshi is driving this initiative.

Business use of Honeycomb tablets, is this just a customer application or small business?
Appealing to both consumers and business, speaking of my personal usage, I use my tablet more and my laptop less.  On a tablet I can respond to emails quickly

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Improvements in Honeycomb 3.1?
In Calendar, and Gmail is terrific on a tablet.

Music: service completely legal?  Was there a discussion where you feared legal action from labels and artists?  Could this still happen?  What was so terrible that you didn't go the expected route, what did they ask?
You are asking me to speculate on legal matters and comment on negotiations… (laughter) What I will say is that we respect copyright and rightsholders.  We have designed service to facilitate users music collection by the users who own that music.  I cannot get into business discussion detail but we felt from both product and business standpoint that certain partners not on compelling path.  And i will not name those labels.

Why are carriers and hardware manufacturers agreeing to update their OSs now?
What was announced today reflects everyone valuing the ecosystem.  We realized there was no common expectation set, so we wanted to establish that for the entire community including users and developers, so developers know which version to target.  Issue is health of the ecosystem, we are just the coordinators to get everyone in lockstep on this, is about servicing the customer.

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Ice Cream Sandwich unifies tablet and phone, how much is unifying and is there new features?
Our primary job is to merge the Android experience on all devices.  New features are coming but I can't announce them, I gave a hint in the keynote.  Will roll out when more mature.

Walk me through what happens differently now that everyone in more in line with updates.  What will this experience be like for a consumer?
We don't have the answers yet to that really good question.  We are figuring this out now. Just getting these names to the table achieved a lot
So how easy is it to join this group?  Are you actively working to get more partners in that circle?
it is more manageable to start small but it is an open innovation, we did want to hit ground running and get some answers

Ice Cream Sandwich (henceforth abbreviated ICS, people) – Hardware requirements to prevent current phones to run it?  Is Google planning another device to coincide with release of ICS?
Current generation will run on it.  Next gen device?  There will always be new Nexus devices.We make announcements holidays and summer, so… stay tuned.

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Google Music is legal, launching in US only because of licensing.  So why only launching in US if legal?
Worldwide launches are difficult.  Rolling out on invite only basis so we can learn from it and make it better.

Google TV update this summer?  Availability outside US?
Short answer is nothing announced just yet but is in roadmap

Google music: quality of streaming music, better than Pandora? 192 streaming Kbps?  Can you ask for specific songs on your phone?
We stream up to 320 Kbp., highest possible bitrate based on what you uploaded based on network connection.  Permanent song placement, the experience of the end-user is no different but it is cached not permanently stored. but you direct the cache, not a re-download.  You can of course sideload music to your device and the music player works with that as well

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[email protected], what is G's thinking on this, are you serious about this, expect a lot of development activity?  MS has been talking about this for 2 decades.
It is important to think about it in different terms as I/O subsystems for Android devices, we aren't coming up with the killer apps but others have opportunities to do it.  We realized it had to be a low cost option.  Like the LED bulb will have this tech embedded in it.  We'll provide some software  to get you started.  Think of it as extending the Android platform into the home.  If a OEM did this it would be proprietary, we are instead trying to create a standard.  It is a lot of fun, we're excited about it, but we ARE taking it seriously.

[email protected], what is timetable for these devices coming out?
It requires a new technology but it is low-cost, we are working with partners to embed in products to be released end of this year.  it is wireless not WiFi, low power low-bandwidth.

What is message to app developers today for tablets and phones?  Do we have to wait for ICS for new apps for tablets?
Today's Music app is same APK for Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb, can handle multiple versions.  Please look at Honeycomb APIs and apps, will live on in Ice Cream Sandwich.  Look at the Google I/O app, not complex but is beautiful and specified for phone, tablets.  Different behaviors for screen size.

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Will I see that in the Market?
Yes, we have area in Market for tablet optimized apps.  We are giving you a tablet, we do care about these.

Pending availability of higher bandwidth services, unlimited bandwidth contracts are going away.  But you're rolling out movies!  Longer term, what is your vision with managing these costs on mobile devices?
We go through these cycles and operators have congested networks.  The next-gen will roll out and then they want bandwidth-consuming apps to sell more services.  Tech marches on.  Not all networks are congested so they are offering all you can use data plans. Most of this consumption will be at home.  WiFi is option for most people.  The videos app asks you if you want to use WiFi because we are aware of costs.  Think about Moore's Law for systems, not just processors, it works differently (using CPU, battery, comms)

[email protected], why didn't you go with ?? (missed it)
We haven't announced what we're using.  We looked at efforts going on around monitoring energy.  You need fine granularity, what devices are contributing to it.

Yesterday you announced 3000 movies added for YouTube rental.  Can we see this on our home PC or just devices for Android?
Same YouTube backend, so same set of movies.  Listed some studios they signed with.  If you rent on Android market you can watch on YouTube and vice versa.

Robot eating apple (a slide in the Keynote)?
We try not to take ourselves too seriously.  Great to be battling for hearts and minds of developers.

Android getting into a lot of areas.  Walk us through how this works when Android thing interacts with Chrome, YouTube etc
You never know when these Androids are going to go out of their cage.  This isn't just Google product, we open source it and people do things with it.  We are shining light on an opportunity like [email protected].  We launched 100M devices but things orbit that, we want to be sure that keeps expanding.

Hardware SDK seems to have implications for robotics, but portrayed more like client devices.  Do you see this going to robotics world?
Absolutely.  Go to interactive zone and see robots being controlled.  Don't think of our apps we envision, it is an enabling tech that we can't even imagine.  Arduino plays in here (this is device being given to developers for hardware control?)  iRobot is showing something on 3rd floor

Music service, get legal songs.  Will there be way to handle complaints of piracy.  And what about Motorola getting preferential service when tablet not selling well?
We make clear service for lawfully acquired music and will respond to complaints from rights holders.  The Xoom still early in life-cycle.  You will see wave of other machines in market.  Power of Android is it is not a single product.

  • Yeh he ducked the question of preference for the Xoom.

You could be doing more in Gaming world, any potential HW accessory manufacturers?
Yes there are several.  Not sure which have been announced yet, we are working with them on game peripherals.  Having something like USB host functionality allows you to play differently.  Look at the XPERIA Play, there is demand for gaming on Android.

Comment on Android beyond "coming out of Beta" (Honeycomb)
Definition of Android is mobile, then we used bigger screens, now it's tablets.  Everything should be Droidified.  We should just take to new levels, no longer something you buy at a store but will bridge things well.

Can you confirm upgrades through partners will be international not just US only.  We have had identical phones only upgraded in US.
You can expect this to be international look for more announcements.

How long will it take me to upload 20,000 songs?
A large collection would take a while to upload.  We could enable a music matching service when we get agreements from labels.

Movies have been C-level until now (quality of movie).  How is your relationship with Hollywood, movie agreement looks good, but music side doesn't look as strong.  General statement?
Would say in any industry with large companies, some are on leading edge of innovation, some more conservative.  The partners who believe in power of Cloud (also book space) are willing and eager.  We are glad of partners who embraced this vision.  You should expect to see interesting things coming from us as well.

Are you willing to have apps for other platforms to use this Cloud service?  Should we be locked into one platform?
We are always committed building for platforms users have in their hands.  Whole range of Google products on iOS, sometimes they get there first.  We go where users are.  The Web has always been place for Google.  Client apps are a matter of resources and prioritization, we do focus our innovation there first.  Clearly Android is a priority.

Any ambitions to connect the islands of the video services?
We have nothing to announce at this time.  We don't want to artificially create islands, we want to bridge them.  We are conscious of that.

What is stance on custom skins like TouchWiz?  Do you see shortening update period making UI more difficult?
Android is architected to be customizable but compatible.  Benefit is framework is smart enough to let this happen but let apps run on all of them.  Allowing unique user experiences is important and gives consumers choice, important selling point of Android.  Shouldn't be issue, architecture moving forward.
Partners know what their plans are beyond this, they are able to handle this and made the determination.

Android and malware, how are you locking it down?

We aren't locking it down but have multifaceted approach.  We have sandbox model, security area, Market we are looking at how to stop malware from spreading.  We are not going in locking it down. We do run malware scanning on Market, gets 99% of stuff.  We have safety lever which removes things from devices, has been demonstrated to work, and is a cat and mouse game on all platforms.  There are some things we'll do in future releases.  More details will be revealed later.

Open system: One OS for all, you have two, Android and Chrome.
It's one Android for all.  But thanks for asking about Openness.  Open Source is different from a community driven product.  We are heavy on Open Source, everything ends up in Open Source repository.   We are always adding new functionality which is new APIs.  When we add new APIs, community processes don't work because it's hard to tell when you are done.  What if someone takes an early version which then becomes incompatible.  We decided to release platform and make sure APIs on all devices which have that platform.  That's part of our responsibility that this stays together.  A community project is much more difficult to manage, we take submissions but in a much more controlled way.

Openness is a nice close to this session, and we'll be open again at 2:30 for Developer press roundtable plus reception at 5:30.

Play the giant labyrynth, enjoy rest of show.