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Google I/O

This week I’m lucky enough to be one of 6000 developers converging on the Moscone Center in San Francisco for Google’s annual developer conference, I/O.

Google are a bastion for the classic software developer who loves to tinker and experiment. Their culture of engineers encourages constant experimentation and finding out what sticks.

I have to admit I’m 50/50 on this approach. I see its appeal: let smart people do whatever they want and see what happens. But in reality it often leads to some really fragmented devices and disparate approaches. For example, developing for an Android device often means buying 10+ test phones/devices and trying to work out quirks and bugs with all the different capabilities and devices. These differences mean Android software has to work in a range of different environments, with a range of different interactions which can sometimes result some really bad user experiences.

As a result of that culture, they’re really hard to pin down in terms of strategy – even though Google is one of the heavyweights in the tech industry! However, judging from this event, it looks like Google are focusing on the consumer market. They want to get involved in and integrated with every part of peoples’ lives – no matter how “sacred.”

This point was particularly clear in the final focus of this year’s keynote, with Sergey Brin taking the stage to introduce some stunt men who proceeded to deliver a set of Google Glasses

To be frank, the glasses fill me with a sense of revulsion. As the demos went through a new mother interacting with their baby, I thought of my own kids – who I try to keep as far away from technology as possible. I figure tech will play an increasingly large role through the rest of their lives, so why would I wear some bad glasses on my face just to capture a smile? It would put a barrier between my kids and me. But Google see things differently; they want to be involved in this relationship.

Google also announced their tablet – the Nexus 7 (Nexus 6 is skipped due to its pop culture meaning). It’s clearly a race for the bottom of the market. The Nexus seems like a great device, but it’s definitely closer to competing with the relatively cheap Amazon Kindle Fire than the iPad.

They also showed the Nexus Q, a digital jukebox that you access from your Android device. I’m discounting it for now because I think it’ll have a very hard time competing with the Apple TV.

As the iPad becomes a favourite of the enterprise conference room(thanks to people like diligent board papers), Google’s less-expensive product releases indicated (to me) that Google are going after peoples’ homes and leaving the boardroom to pricier Apple and Microsoft.

More importantly, though, I think it’s very telling that all of the product demos at I/O were mobile devices. The future is definitely mobile, and before long the only people who need true computers are going to be the people who create the software behind these mobile devices.


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1 comment

Geoff Bruckner
30 June 2012 #

People coming from an iOS background often mistake Android’s fragmentation as a weakness. It’s a strength. With iOS you are limited to a handful of devices. With Android you have the capability to support dozens of different screen sizes and configurations, from consumer phones and tablets, right through to rugged enterprise devices with built in laser barcode scanners.

Yes, there is a bit more work. Yes the manufacturers have made things a bit harder through their own customisations. But diversity also drives innovation. What you can do as a developer with Android now leaves the other OS’s for dead. At least now we have one OS for over 50% of devices rather than a new OS for every manufacturer.

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