I followed with a lot of interest the Google I/O conference for developers online this last week. The I/O conference was held in San Francisco and there were a lot of interesting announcements and observations. For starters it’s always interesting to see the charismatic Vic Gudotra present. Prior to his role at Google, Vic was the right hand man for the former Microsoft VP of development evangelism at Microsoft Sanjay Parsatharathay, Sanjay was a lousy speaker, where as Vic was quite comfortable in front of an audience. It always seemed Vic was the voice and face for developers at Microsoft, so it was a coup when Google stole him. He now is leading the development programs at Google. Many people at Microsoft say he has adopted the Microsoft play book at Google. I would say he has updated it and improved it. For this event however he was the host so his role was minimized as developers never want entertainment they just want to get into the guts of the technology and how it will improve their productivity and generate new opportunities. I am going to take the high road to summarize my impressions
Day one at the conference was all about Android. Google started by highlighting all the success Android has had with developers world-wide. When you look at the number of developers and the number of applications that have been built its pretty easy to have a successful opening to a developer conference. Android has 100 million activated devices worldwide. Any business today getting into the mobile space will only talk about two things Apple iOS and Android. So what were the cool announcements? Improvement to the AppMarket for Android and some new tools for Eclipse (an open source development tool that has a huge following, not sexy but very important)) I found Android@home the most interesting announcement and comical hysterical announcement at the same time. The idea being Android on any device anywhere. Think beyond what you know today and think of home appliance running Android tomorrow, it could be your oven, your washer, pretty much anything that could benefit from software. This is not a new idea, Novell and Microsoft toyed with this idea over fifteen years ago. Interestingly Microsoft’s initiative was called…@home. I think the difference now is where Novell and Microsoft were ahead of the curve, it seems like we are at the dawn of where this idea will become reality. Coming up with big ideas is not that hard, timing it however is the trick to success.
Day two was about Chrome. Chrome today is really a browser. If you look at browser market share Chrome is between 10% and 12% (NetMarket Share Data). Which is impressive but still a long way off from catching Firefox or Internet Explorer. Chrome however is about the future of web development and browser-based hardware devices. Recently we have seen the first Chromebooks hit the market and the conference had several more announcements about Chromebooks. The idea of an always connected browser-based device without all the overhead if a traditional operating system has some merit. The problem at east for now is we are not always connected and sometimes we do not want to be. Still I agree with most that this is the start of the next generation device, where connectivity will be ubiquitous and cloud services will be everywhere. Google also announced the expansion of the Chrome Store. This is all fine and dandy that it no is available in 41 countries, but we do seem to have a lot of companies out there with a lot of online stores…how many do we need?
Finally across both days there were a couple of horizontal technologies that went across both Android and Chrome. One was cloud based services. The idea beyond a marketing term is that the days where certain things could only be done on the desktop are coming to an end. Sure there may be certain apps that leverage the capabilities of the desktop OS or hardware, but they will have limited market value. The idea that a word processor needs to be tied to the PC is rapidly changing as apps like Google Docs increase in functionality. Are they at parity with Microsoft Office? Not even close today, but the ability to make up ground and create new cloud based scenarios is causing disruption in the landscape and will continue t do so (that is not to say Microsoft could not be the drivers of this change). The other theme was every demo it seemed was Angry Birds. I gotta be honest I don’t know these birds and I am not sure why they are angry, but my kids do. It got to the point it was annoying. Hey wait…it’s on my iPhone. I need to talk with my children.
What impressed me about Google I/O was the clarity of what developers should be looking to do to create value today (Android) and to start thinking about tomorrow (Chrome). There is a lot to be said to keep it simple. In many ways that is what Google has done. Provide the building blocks and let the developer community be innovative and creative. We are still along way from the full promise of what the web can and will deliver but the pieces are coming together to make it accessible to a very large audience. As I have written before to be successful in technology you must have a clear vision of the future and be able to articulate that vision to a large and broad audience. Did Google I/O answer all the questions? No. I am still a little confused as to why we have to have two different platforms, why not just make it all Android? But the long-term vision of the role the web will play in our lives and where Google will fit in that ecosystem is clear. There was a time it was all about a PC in every home, now it’s..to the cloud.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann May 19th 2011