Google I/O - Music, Movies and Ice Cream Sandwich

Computer History Museum, Mt. View CA

Image courtesy of the Computer History Museum

I wasn't able to get into Google I/O this year. I wasn't the only one, the two day developer event in San Francisco, which is limited to 5000 attendees in San Francisco, sold out in 59 minutes.

In response to the enormous demand, Google set up over 110 free Google I/O Extended live viewing parties around the world where the keynotes and selected sessions are shown on the big screen. At the I/O keynote Vic Gundotra announced that the I/O Extended event in Cairo was the biggest, drawing over 1000 people.

I'm spending the day at I/O Extended at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California which is just down the road from Google's headquarters. In addition to the streamed I/O sessions there's food, coffee, WiFi and lots of power outlets.

The main announcements today at I/O were:

  • A new Android OS 3.1 version (still called Honeycomb) which is available immediately for Xoom tablets. It features resizable Widgets (a live Gmail widget that can be zoomed to full screen was demoed) and USB host mode which makes accessory game controllers possible, among other things.
  • The followup to 3.1 was previewed. To be called "Ice Cream Sandwich": it will ship in the 4th quarter of this year. Unlike Honeycomb, which is for tablets only, Ice Cream Sandwich will work across all types of devices including phones, tablets, TVs and gaming devices. Developers will be able to build apps that adapt to different devices to do things like show the app's menu as a sidebar on a tablet and as a popup on a phone. Ice Cream Sandwich also includes an Open Accessory API which lets developers integrate Android devices with other devices. This was demoed with an exercise bike that when connected to an Android phone prompts the user to download an app that lets the user compete in a race game using the bike and also tracks and charts their performance
  • In move that should go a long way to counter complaints of Android fragmentation, Google announced new commitments from a number of major Android OEMs and operators to provide timely OS upgrades to all new devices for 18 months. Participating manufacturers and operators include HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and Vodafone.
  • Movie rentals are now available in Android Market. Pricing is $1.99 for for 24 hours and movies can be streamed or downloaded on PC, tablet or phone.
  • Google's music service, which was previewed at last year's I/O is finally available, though only as a limited Beta. I/O attendees get immediate access to the Beta, the rest on us can apply at Thanks the music industry's intransigence, there is no music purchase or rental component. Instead the service allows users to store up to 20,000 of their own songs in the cloud and access them from any device complete with album art, track info and user ratings. Importing music from iTunes is supported.

Most of the first day's announcements weren't unexpected. Although movie rentals and Google Music seem to be getting the most coverage I think the agreement to provide OS updates to Android devices is potentially the biggest deal. Or not depending on how Google enforces it. There are obviously some limits on devices updates. The announcement mentioned that the update policy agreement only applies to "new" devices so don't count on updates for phones that are already in the market. Also future Android releases are likely to to have hardware requirements that older requirements don't meet. I just hope that Google doesn't let vendors claim that a device isn't compatible when it actually is.

Based on past I/Os, I expect the biggest announcements tomorrow. I suspect we will see a  Chrome OS announcement of some sort and perhaps something new from Google in the social media area.

This year's awesome I/O swag was an unrelesed Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet that was given to all 5000 attendees at the San Francisco event.

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