Featured: A Look Back at the Ghosts of Google I/O Past

I love Google, I really do. But sometimes with love comes criticism, and as we head into another Google I/O event next week I can't help but think back to Google I/O events past. Android has been a runaway success for Google, and it is the one product outside of search and ads that Google has grown into a powerhouse product.

But what about all of that other stuff?

If you've ever been to one of the big auto shows you're aware that a good bit of floor space is devoted to each manufacturer showing off their latest concept vehicles. These aren't cars that you'll be able to walk into a dealer to buy when you get home from the show, rather they are just really neat-o ideas. Though I've never really fully grasped the idea of the concept car, I find way too many similarities between the concept car and Google products announced at I/O.

I finished off a blog post that I started at the end of last year on personal blog where I ran down my five biggest disappointments from Google I/O 2011, but that's not really what this is about. No, what this is about is Google's inability to deliver the products that they trot out to the eager masses each year.

Let's have a look back at Google I/O's past.

Google I/O 2008 Product Announcements

  • Google Gears changed to Gears
  • Google App Engine
  • Google Friend Connect
  • Android

Alright, admittedly, 2008 was a pretty decent year for announcements made at Google I/O. Google App Engine at least appears to be doing well. Android? Yeah, that one definitely worked out pretty well.

Google Gears and Friend Connect? Well, both of these products were actually released, but neither thrived. Gears was abandoned by Google in 2009, and though Friend Connect actually still exists it is totally useless.

Google I/O 2009 Product Announcements

  • Google Wave

I never really learned to love Google Wave, and frankly, neither did anyone else. Just a little over a year later Google announced that Wave would be closed.

Google I/O 2010 Product Announcements

  • WebM
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Google Music
  • Google TV
  • Chromebooks

WebM was introduced as a royalty free alternative to H.264 video encoding, and it's gone nowhere. Sure, there is some browser support for WebM, and YouTube supports it in their HTML5 trials, but that's it.

The Chrome Web Store is a great place for users to go to get extensions for Chrome, but Google intended for the Chrome Store to be a marketplace for developers to earn money from their Chrome development efforts. Again, that just hasn't happened.

Google Music was announced at Google I/O 2010, but it wasn't until Google I/O 2011 when the product was announced again that it saw an actual release.

Like Android before it, Google TV was actually released into the wild on devices from Sony and Logitech in October or November of 2010. By November of 2011 Logitech had fired its CEO and announced that they were exiting the Google TV business.

The Chromebook is another product from Google that actually saw a release. After a brief test of ChromeOS on the CR-48 notebooks, Google announced that the Chromebook would be offered for sale by Samsung and Acer. There aren't any solid sales figures available, but Google just announced a round of updated hardware from Samsung, but Acer is nowhere to be found.

Google I/O 2011 Product Announcements

  • Google Music Beta
  • Google Movies
  • [email protected]
  • Android Open Accessory
  • Android Update Alliance

Google Music launched during the keynote where it was introduced. In fact, I got my account before the keynote ended. It works well enough. There is some lag with streaming, but I do like having my entire music collection available on all of my devices without having to have all of those songs actually on the device. Google is disappointed in Google Music, and I am to an extent, but it's a pretty good product.

Google Movies, like Google Music before it, was made available almost immediately after it was announced. I tried a rental a few days after I/O, and it was a solid and error free experience. Google Movies seemingly has the same selection of titles to rent as Amazon, though I haven't tried to compare it to the selection of iTunes because I no longer use it.

Now, here's where we get to the concept part of what I/O is becoming.

[email protected] certainly seemed like it was a little further down the development path than it turned out to be. I mean, seeing some of the demonstrations I thought that we would begin to see some of these automation products late last year. Not in the cards. In fact, more than a year later there hasn't been a word from Google about @Home. It was a concept, not a product.

Android Open Accessory was the Google answer to the "Made for iPod" success that Apple and its licensees have experienced, only nothing has become of the concept. More than a year out there isn't a single exercise bike or over-sized labyrinth game to be played. There isn't a single accessory device that is "Made for Android" using the AOA concept. Oh, and Google hasn't said boo about it since I/O 2011.

And now, for the biggest failure of a concept in the Google I/O list of letdowns: the Android Update Alliance. It seemed like a really great idea. All of the big names on Android hardware and mobile networks signed on to assure customers that the devices that they bought would see OS updates for at least 18 months after the phone's introduction. With fewer than 8% of Android devices running ICS more than 8 months after release, I think we can declare the Android Update Alliance is big fat bust.

Looking ahead to Google I/O 2012
We've done a couple of previews here for what we expect Google to do at I/O 2012, so head on over to our I/O 2012 page to have a look at those. I'll say that thanks to Google Glasses Google I/O 2012 certainly has the potential to be another show of concepts instead of actual products that we'll see released before I/O 2013 rolls around. It seems like it's close to prime time ready, but how many CDs with an NFC chip have you tapped on your home entertainment system since last I/O?

I'm not sure if Google actually intended for Google I/O to be more of a technology showcase than a product introduction event, but that's what it has morphed itself into. It's a show about really neat ideas, but not about actual shipping products.

I hope I'm wrong about I/O 2012, and I still wish that I hadn't had to back out of going. That said, any product that isn't announced with ship date is nothing more than a really neat concept. Even if that ship date is simply "fall 2012" or "early 2013", I'll take that. Anything else and I'm calling that a concept. A neat idea. Nothing that I need to figure out how to pay for.

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About the Author

Randy Arrowood

Senior Writer
I'm a 40 something early adopter of all things technology. I was first in line to buy both my original Verizon Droid and my Apple iPad 1. I don't hate your phone or tablet choice, but I've probably got an opinion about it. Aside from my family, the only things that I love more than a new gadget are fly fishing and going to the ballpark. Ocassionaly I find a way to blog about both. Though I'm only one more Foxconn story away from being fired, I've been writing for Android Headlines since March 2011.