Everything You Need to Know About Google I/O 2010 ;).
For the past few years, Google has been holding a developer conference each May called Google I/O. In true benevolent Google fashion, the ‘I/O’ stands for “Innovation in the Open”. Despite being an event supposedly aimed at developers, Google I/O has garnered a lot of attention from consumers these last few years. That has a lot to do with the subject matter of the conference. Google I/O offers the opportunity to get a peek at what cool products and features we can expect to be playing with in the coming months.
Google I/O 2008
This was the first Google I/O event and it was chocked full of announcements and keynotes. Google started off a little slow with announcements relating to OpenSocial. This is a set of APIs for use in web based social networking apps. The protocol was developed in conjunction with MySpace (insert sad trombone here), and is used on sites like Hi5, MySpace, Ning, and Orkut. Version 1.0 of OpenSocial was just released back in March and is often thought of as an open alternative to the Facebook platform.
Google went over some news on Google Gears and stressed their future support for HTML5. The Big G then went on to excite developers with the announcement that Google App Engine would be free to start using. App Engine is a development and hosting service for web apps. Fees are charged only after developers have crossed certain bandwidth or CPU cycle threshold.
The other big announcement (and a theme for future I/O events) was all about Android. At the time there were no Android phones available. The phone that would become that first retail unit, the HTC Dream (later renamed the T-Mobile G1 in the US) was demoed at the I/O conference. The software was clearly an early build, many of the design elements were different than the final 1.0 release. The window shade notification system was there, and looking much as it does to this day, though. A few widgets were on board, but the app drawer was completely absent. Instead there was an app list on the home screen. It was rough, but we could see the potential of Android peeking through.
Google I/O 2009
Google moved on to Android. At this point, the G1 was still the only domestically available Android phone, but Google did give out free Google Ion phones to attendees. When these were eventually released to the public, they would become the HTC Magic/MyTouch 3G. Google also showed off some of the new APIs they were working on for Android 2.0, which we later saw launch in November on the Motorola Droid. Google also announced the start of the second Android Developer Challenge. App developers would be able to compete for cash prizes of up to $100,000 by developing Android apps.
Day two of the conference was dominated by news of Google Wave. This collaborative communication tool came out of left field, no one really expected such an ambitious project to be rolled out. Wave was released as a developer preview right then, and to 100,000 more users a few months later. There hasn’t been much news on Wave since then, but they have been quietly updating it all along. It now has many more features than when it launched.
Google I/O 2010
We have no way of knowing just what Google has cooking for the third I/O event, but rumors and Google’s own session listings can offer some clues. We expect to definitely hear about Chrome. This will be mostly heavy web design and development talk, but certainly of interest if you have a stake in HTML5 adoption. Expect some discussion of the use of App Engine in enterprise settings as well. Now that the stable channel of Google Chrome supports extensions, there will be a bit of talk about extension development.
On a similar note, we expect Google to encourage the adoption of HTML5 by open sourcing their VP8 codec. This would be a competitor to H.264 and Ogg/Theora. VP8 was acquired in the purchase of software maker On2. It’s possible Firefox and Chrome will announce support for the new codec at the event. This could be a way out for Firefox, which cannot include the closed H.264 codec. But Google will have to push VP8 hard to overcome the lead H.264 has. A Youtube tie-in could be announced as well.
Perhaps the most anticipated item on the I/O agenda is the Android operating system. Rumors indicate that Google will be showing off the next iteration of the software, Android 2.2 or “Froyo”. We even have some idea of what will be included. The biggest feature is likely to be Flash 10.1 for mobile, which Google’s Andy Rubin and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen have clearly stated would be integrated into 2.2 .This could be a big advantage over products like the iPhone if Adobe and Google can pull off asolid mobile experience.
Another change in Android is a long overdue one. The Dalvik VM that Android uses to compile code has always been a little pokey, but it’s expected to be sped up with the new JIT (or Just In Time) compiler. There were some rumors that Android 2.2 would be 450% faster, but Google’s Chris DiBona tempered that expectation on the most recent episode of the Cranky Geeks podcast (episode 218), saying the test was not accurate. “[Android 2.2] increases performance somewhat, but not five times,” said DiBona.
Android Froyo should also come with various system improvements including a slightly revamped home screen and access to all of the Nexus One’s system RAM. Some harder to believe rumors have Google enabling the Nexus One’s latent wireless N and FM radio capabilities. There’s also news of tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality built into 2.2. This tidbit came with some convincing screens, and we’re compelled to believe it. All these functions are supposedly supported by the Broadcom BCM4329 chip, but are not implemented in Android 2.1. It’s not clear just when the software would be rolled out to regular users, but there could be a developer preview after I/O.
We’ll keep an eye out for all the I/O news next week, so stay tuned. There’s always the chance we’ll get another big surprise like Google Wave last year. Even if we don’t, there’s likely enough here to make for a successful event. It will be interesting to see if Google responds to the news that they will be stopping online sales of the Nexus One, and getting the phones in retail locations.
What do you want to hear from Google at the event?