Wednesday was the first day of the Google I/O 2013 conference. The doors opened at 7 am to let close to five thousand individuals into the breakfast area and into the line that eventually led to where the keynote was to take place. The organization went pretty well, with most people forming a single line, up until we arrived on the first floor, where everyone just aglomerated there before being allowed to move to the second floor. Like cattle, we bumped each other for a while until finally they let us go upstairs. Finally, I made it to the keynote and I even had a good spot right in the middle of the room.
As this is my first Google I/O conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The keynote started at 9 am sharp, and it was full with information about what Google is doing in different areas. The first area, Android, brought new features that have just been released like updates to the Location API, Maps API v2 and Google+ sign-in. Most importantly though, there is a new functionality available for Android that will allow people to play games in multiplayer mode using Google services for saving game data in the cloud so that it can be shared accross devices, for inviting other users, for having achievements and leaderboards and for sending actual game data between games. Google Play game services isn’t only for Android, as they also provide an iOS implementation so games can interact between platforms. Unfortunately the demo failed, but this isn’t the first time or the last time a demo will fail.
Next, Google announced a new IDE based on Intellij IDEA Community Edition, the Android Studio. It has many features that will help developers write robust Android apps, and it was a great and welcome surprise. They also announced improvements to the Developer dashboard that will allow better tracking of revenue and the possibility to do targeted deploys.
Moving away from the Android arena, Google had a lot to show, like the Google Play Music All Access service, which for only $9.99 per month ($7.99 if you join before June 21st) will allow you to not only store your library and have it available on all your devices, but also to create radio stations from a song or group of songs, for unlimited song playing. They also announced a “vanilla” version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that contains stock Android OS and is promised to get OS updates as soon as they’re out. This for only $649 for an unlocked phone.
Google has also improved Chrome with support for an optimized picture and video compression format, and speed improvements. And what better way to make developers use Chrome than by giving each of us attending I/O a shiny new Chromebook Pixel. In fact, I am writing this blog post on the Pixel right now, and I will write a separate post with my review.
Google+ was also improved with multicolumn layouts, photo manipulation and a new and improved hangouts app that will replace Google Talk and it will allow people to send text and video chats to friends and groups.
In the search arena we now have an improved search that uses your voice and contextual information to determine exactly what are you looking for. The demo was very good, but I wonder how it will behave in real life, but this is Google and I’m sure it will be improved over time. Google Maps also got a big update with contextual info from the user and friends that will bring better related searches for nearby places.
Larry Page came onstage to talk about how Technology companies need to focus less on fighting each other and more on inovating. He was speaking strange, and it looks like it’s due to a vocal cord paralysis that has been affecting him for a while. But he took the stage and answered questions from the audience.
After the keynote came the sessions, lunch, more sessions, and then the after hours party, which had Billy Idol performing.
I have enjoyed the conference so far, but I was expecting more Android related news, new hardware or at least an update to the OS. We’ll see what happens the rest of the days.