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Android Devices, Android@Home and MusicBeta Service, at Google I/O Keynote

by Dio Synodinos on May 10, 2011 |

Google I/O 2011 opened today with more than 5,000 attendees and several announcements from Google regarding new services and offerings. This post from InfoQ’s correspondent at the conference, summarizes those new developments.

At the beginning Vic Gundotra, Senior VP took the stage and made a small recap of past I/Os. As for this event, he emphasized the fact that it is the biggest one yet, with more than 5,000 attendees and it’ll be the first time it’ll be streamed live to 110 cities around the world. He particularly mentioned the case of Cairo, where it was 2am, but there were more than a thousand people watching live.

Hugo Bara, Product Management Director for Android followed and talked about “how it all started” with Android and T-Mobile G1, two and a half years ago. He talked about the progress over this time and quoted impressive figures:

  • 100,000,000 activations worldwide,
  • 36 OEMs,
  • 250 carriers,
  • 450,000 developers,
  • 310 devices in 112 countries,
  • 400,000 daily activations,
  • 200,000 apps in Android market and
  • 4,5 billion app installs.

Mike Cleron from the Android Engineering team followed, announcing the Android Honeycomb upgrade to 3.1, emphasizing on the following new features:

  • Several user enhancements,
  • Improved task switcher,
  • Improved widgets – added stretching and resizing
  • USB support for devices, e.g. direct import of photos from camera, keyboards, game controllers,
  • Honeycomb 3.1 coming to Google TV this summer with access to the market store for Google TV users
  • New products from Sony, Logitec, Samsung, and more.

The next Android release will be Ice cream Sandwich, and is scheduled for Q4/2011. The main themes for that will be:

  • Improved experience on different devices,
  • Honeycomb UI APIs now available to all devices,
  • Improved app framework for scaling on different devices,
  • Will feature software that updates 3D scenes to match users perspective – e.g. follows user’s head,
  • Also “virtual camera operator” software, that will focus on who is speaking in video conferences

All the above will be available as open source APIs!

Next, Hugo introduced a member of the Android Services team, who announced the addition of movies to the Android market starting today. These will be instantly streamed from the cloud to any Android device. He demoed the rental process, which will allow for a 30 day period from the time that the user starts watching the movie, either on the device or directly on the web. Downloading the movies for offline viewing will also be available - “rent anywhere, watch anywhere”. The movie update is included on the Honeycomp 3.1 for tables and 2.2 for android phones.

Next a new services from Google was demoed called MusicBeta. With MusicBeta, users are able to add their music to the cloud and watch it in any device. Also they will be able to create playlists both on their device and the web. There will also be functionality called “instant mix”, which automatically creates playlists based on user’s favorite tracks, using machine learning.  With MusicBeta users will never have to use a cable to add music again, since it uses the cloud. When it was mentioned that the service will start in beta by invitation only to a limited number of US users, there were some negative reaction at the back of the keynote room.

Right after MusicBeta, Hugo mentioned that Google is jointly announcing that new devices from participating partners will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after any device is first released, as long as the hardware allows it. This was received with big excitement and applauding from the crowd!

Going beyond the mobile phone, there was mention about new classes of hardware, and 2 members of the Android hardware engineering team, talked about the Android Open Accessories initiative and the APIs that will be made available to manufacturers. They elaborated on that, be showing an exercise bike from CardioQuest, communicating with an android phone, as the user was exercising. They also mentioned the release of some sort of reference hardware offering, and emphasized that all this will be free from NDAs, have no fees and no approval process!

The next speaker talked about how Google is visioning the home as set of interconnected accessories (Android@Home) and mentioned new services from android devices to communicate with appliances via wifi or a new protocol that Google has developed to work with anything electrical. Any device at home is a potential android device, e.g. imagine an alarm clock application that opens the lights gradually in the user’s bedroom. LED lights bulbs will be sold by the end of the year in the US, that make use of these technologies.

The final demo was a preview of Project Tungsten, an Android device for Music Beta that gives users more control over music playback within the Android@Home network.

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