Google I/O Live Blog: Tablet Eyed

Google I/O kicks off Wednesday at 9:30 PST and <em>InformationWeek</em>'s Fritz Nelson is live blogging right here. Join us for breaking news and expert analysis.

Fritz Nelson, Vice President, Editorial Director InformationWeek Business Technology Network

June 27, 2012

40 Min Read

We're at Moscone West for Google I/O, on another San Francisco day as bright and crisp as…well, as an apple I suppose. But two weeks beyond Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in the very same venue, Google gets to have the final word.

Apple's Siri cleverly kicked off WWDC with a comedy routine that famously asked the audience whether it had been working with Google Android versions named Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean: "Who names these, Ben & Jerry?" Cue the rim shot, delivered courtesy of the Garage Band app. Then Apple went on to talk of Mountain Lion, which replaces Lion, which replaced Snow Leopard and so on. Perhaps Google's much-anticipated voice assistant will return Siri's volley: "Who names these these, Siegfried & Roy?"

We expect Google to pack an enormous amount of news into the one-hour keynote this morning, because that's what usually happens before big platform companies like these dispense with the theatrics and get down to the real business at hand. Google is fostering a developer ecosystem that will propel everything from Android (on phones and tablets) to Chrome (on desktops and web-tops) to Google Maps (everywhere) to Google App Engine (somewhere) to Google TV (really almost nowhere).

This juxtaposition of a shiny, showy keynote with three days of a deep-dive is the essence of the push-pull opportunity inherent in a high-profile developer conference. Google is expected to show off (by which we mean: it has leaked) Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean. Look for a Google Nexus tablet (guesses put the price tag at $199, which puts it in Amazon Kindle Fire range, and size at a similar seven inches, made in conjunction with Asus) and a Google cloud/Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) service to compete with Amazon, Rackspace, and possibly Microsoft and HP.

We'll probably also hear a fair bit about Google Plus, its fledgling social network; Google App Engine, its Platform as a Service (PaaS); and maybe something around Google TV or the company's augmented reality glasses or Google Wallet, especially given that Apple announced its Passport service for iOS 6, and Microsoft will deliver a Wallet service for Windows Phone 8.

Announcements around any of these would show developers that Google continues to make strategic investments to outmaneuver its rivals on key platforms. But as crucial as those statements will be, Google is still battling for developer mindshare. While Android, for instance, has made huge strides toward app store parity, developers continue to write apps for iOS first. If Google aims to change that, the next three days of Google I/O will be crucial.

We popped over to Google I/O Tuesday night to grab our credentials, but also to see if we could sniff out any clues about what Google might announce, or run into engineering chief, Vic Gundotra (usually a fixture on stage at Google events), or see mobile SVP Andy Rubin.

Instead, we ended up talking with several Google session speakers. For example, the Android design team will spend its Friday with developers going through its recently-published (January) style guide--this guide isn't about APIs, but about consistent user experience across Android apps. Google still sees its role here as an agent for recommendation, rather than autocracy.

We also talked to someone on the maps team--there's an entire track on maps, and this guy's talk was about some powerful new capabilities Google will announce around map styles, specifically for the Javascript implementation of Maps on web sites. Where Apple is just getting its Maps app off the ground, with months of work to do just to populate map data, Google is giving developers more tools to customize and stylize maps within web pages, and most likely elsewhere.

The company is expecting some 5,500 developers from around the world. TIckets sold out in just over 20 minutes. (Apple's WWDC sold out in two hours.)

The conference will feature some 130 technical talks, a sandbox demo area with 155 Google partners, and 19 code labs. There will be mini kitchens around the show, with 1,455 pounds of snacks (developers like their snacks). This might sound like wonky developer vegetables, but after all, isn't that what this conference is for?

But Google is offering plenty of dessert as well. There will be more tubs of candy than a Willy Wonka factory, bean bags for lounging, cardboard tube fighting, and a "void your warranty" event with laser etching and welding workshops for customizing phone or laptop cases.

Now stay tuned right here as the keynote kicks off and our live blog starts.

9:33 a.m. PST: We're lined up to get in. the journalist-herding system is about as efficient as windows 98. stay tuned.

9:35 a.m. PST: We are finally inside, only moments before the keynote is to begin (and that, 10 minutes late). Google let a mob scene ensue getting up one flight of escalators only to have us all wait for 20 minutes or more in a holding area. Google employees then formed a human barricade and ushered us all to the keynote room. Kind of an open source way of doing things. Crazy.

9:36 a.m. PST: Oh, and one of the two escalators stopped working from the get go. How on earth this chaos can happen these days is beyond me.

9:37 a.m. PST: As we begin the Google I/O 2012 keynote, out comes SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra. He is a fixture on stage at these Google events now. 350 viewing parties are happening around the world.

9:39 a.m. PST: Gundotra re-iterates that the conference will have some surprises on the hardware side, but that this is about developers. He's also asking the audience to turn off hot spots. And now he's bringing up Hugo Barra, head of Android product management.

9:40 a.m. PST: Looks like we will see some demos here. Jelly Bean perhaps.

9:41 a.m. PST: Three themes: Momentum -- Android had 100 million devices a year ago. Now, 400 million Android devices have been activated.

Last year 400k activated per day. Now 1 million are activated each day. Ahhh, the power of an ecosystem.

9:42 a.m. PST: Barra is showing a heatmap representation -- Japan, South Korea and France grew 300%. Developing world -- Brazil, India, Thailand -- grew over 500%.

And here comes Jelly Bean. Android 4.1. Shock. Awe. Wow.

9:43 a.m. PST: Project butter -- a performance focused effort. More improvements. Search experience updates. That's what we'll see. First, Project Butter. (No toast with that.)

9:44 a.m. PST: Dave Burke, Engineering Director on stage. In Jelly Bean -- they made user interface very fast. Improved system frame rate. VSync: Screen composition, screen refresh. Triple Buffering -- GPU and CPU enhanced.

9:45 a.m. PST: Improved touch experience. Touch responsiveness. Anticipates where fingers will be. More uniform touch response will be the result. Instantly ramps up the CPU based on touch.

Systrace -- collects data from Linux kernel.

9:46 a.m. PST: Developers and device makers can use SysTrace to optimize performance. A lot of data coming from the kernel -- this is all under the hood. There's an SDK to access and use this, it seems.

9:47 a.m. PST: The end result should be a more smooth animation. Triple buffering. Yum yum. It's like buttah. Buttah flavored jelly beans.

9:48 a.m. PST: Now onto improvements to Android beyond performance.

9:49 a.m. PST: Getting widgets to fit just right has been a big problem. In this demo, they are moving widgets from home screen to home screen. Widgets have handles to resize, and when you drag the widgets across home screens, the other apps move around the widget.

9:50 a.m. PST: Also you can "toss" apps and widgets to get them off the screen.

Dictionaries have also been refined, and will learn better. It's predictive from word to word.

Voice Typing -- shrunk Google speech recognizer. It's now in the device, so it doesn't rely on your Internet connection.

9:51 a.m. PST: The word to word predcition is quite amazing if it works well. As they demonstrated the voice feature, it worked perfectly without a connection. Offline voice typing for English (U.S.) first. Other languages to come.

9:52 a.m. PST: Arabic and Hebrew fonts, now, but also Hindi, Thai and Persian fonts being added.

Touch and swipe gestures + speech for blind user accessibility.

9:54 a.m. PST: Now to the camera. In ICE, you could snap photos quickly. But now you can view photos really fast. You can swipe a photo back into view as you are taking photos. You can pinch from a photo to get a multi photo view, and then view a "film strip" quickly. You can also swipe away a photo, and if you make a mistake, do an "undo."

Now Android Beam, which is the built in NFC support. Two new Beam features. Can send a photo or video by tapping phones; can pair and connect phone with Bluetooth device by simply tapping your phone. That is really nice.

9:56 a.m. PST: Android notifications show you more info. Expand and collapse in Jelly Bean. You can take actions (like call someone back) right from the notifications. You can see your G-Mail inbox right in notifications. Calendar notifications come in, and if you're running late, for example, you can send an e-mail to the meeting participants, and it includes canned responses.

9:57 a.m. PST: You can also take things from notiifications and drop them into your Google Plus circles. You can reply to friend check ins.

Two finger gestures in notifications can expand and collapse.

9:58 a.m. PST: The message here is that Android should make your life simple.

Jelly Bean's search has been redesigned.

New UI, Voice Search, and Google Now.

9:59 a.m. PST: On the UI, there's a knowledge graph. It's supposed to be smarter search. Find a Starbucks, it'll show you a map, for example.

10:00 a.m. PST: On Voice Search, it understands natural language, speaks back to you and uses Knowledge Graph. Ask it a question and it doesn't show you a response, it tells you. The demo is pretty impressive. And the voice is, um, less annoying than Siri. It's actually kind of sexy.

10:01 a.m. PST: You can actually ask the Voice Search to show you pictures of things, too. Pygmy Marmosets are really cute, by the way. I'm going to have to get me some.

10:02 a.m. PST: Finally, Google Now. It gets you just the right info, at just the right time, automatically. It uses information in your search history, for instance. It might know from maps about your commute, and it'll show you different and faster routes. If you are on a public transportation station, it'll tell you when the next bus or train comes.

10:03 a.m. PST: Place will tell you what restaurants are near you or what those restaurants are best known for. (If you're on a Mac, will it show you the most expensive?)

Using your calendar, it might tell you when the next bus comes to take you to an appointment.

10:04 a.m. PST: Updates on your favorite sports teams come in real time. Uses your search history to do this.

Google knows when you're traveling. Currency translation, what time it is back home . . . .all of this is provided.

10:05 a.m. PST: There's a Google Now product manager. He's going to show us how it works. It can work from search box, or a swipe from bottom of the phone back up. The search header changes based on place and time.

It reads your calendar, tells you how far your meeting is away, and notifies you automatically what time you should leave in order to get there. Wow. I can really become absent minded with this. I love it.

10:06 a.m. PST: Google Now will know when you go to the gym, apparently. That's frightening.

10:07 a.m. PST: Google Now cards get smarter and smarter as you use them. It can stalk you automatically, at granular levels. It's like your own big brother.

10:08 a.m. PST: Jelly bean coming in mid July. SDK available today. Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S devices and Motorola devices will get the updates over the air.

10:09 a.m. PST: They're also releasing a PDK (platform dev kit) for hardware developers. A few partners already have it.

OEMs and chipset makers will be able to use this to optimize things.

Chris Yerga, Engineering Director now abo ut to talk about Google Play.

10:10 a.m. PST: Today there are more than 600,000 apps and games. 20 billion app installs to date, Yerga says.

10:11 a.m. PST: Google is touting all of its success. In app billing accounts for more than 50% of its app revenue.

10:12 a.m. PST: New features for developers: App encryption now available in Jelly Bean. Device specific key before they are delivered or stored.

Smart app updates -- users only download the parts of the app that have changed.

10:13 a.m. PST: Usually this means the updates are going to be about 1/3 the size. Available on Gingerbread and above.

10:14 a.m. PST: Cloud to device messaging. This has been very successful. Google cloud messaging: Message payloads, for example. This is free for developers now, with no quote limiations. Developers quite happy -- I think those claps were from them, not Google plants.

10:15 a.m. PST: From the end user side of Google Play. Movies are available for sale, not just rental. TV content will now be part of this new offering. All of it available today. Disney, ABC, NBC, Sony Pictures and Paramount are some of the big partners in this.

10:16 a.m. PST: Magazines are also coming. Hearst, Conde Naste. 14 day free trials.

10:16 a.m. PST: Tablets. Somebody said tablets? Nexus -- about best of Google experience. He's talking about Google Play.

An immersive experience for Google Play.

10:17 a.m. PST: Asus has built the device, as expected (ie, leaked). Nexus 7. 7-inch tablet. Built for Google Play. Running Jelly Bean.

10:18 a.m. PST: How about specs: 1280 x 800 HD display. Tegra 3, quad core CPU. 12 core GPU. Holy rendering, batman.

10:19 a.m. PST: Front facing camera for video chat. WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC. 9 hours of video playback for the batter. weighs 340 grams.

10:20 a.m. PST: The iPad weighs 650 grams, just to give you a bit of a comparison.

No rear camera, no talk about carriers/cell support, no price yet.

In the demo, it begins with content, Google Play.

10:21 a.m. PST: Yerga is talking about reading -- books, magazines. You can sort of tell Amazon Kindle Fire might be the target here. Both by the emphasis on reading, but also making Play the centerpiece of the experience.

10:22 a.m. PST: The Esquire app looks pretty nice. Swipe in the Table of Contents, for example. Make it a pure reading (text only) or use the magazine design.

10:24 a.m. PST: Now a demo of the movie and TV experience. Yeah yeah, we get it, you can watch stuff. Episodes and stuff. The key will be how much content will be available. I imagine (hope) that Google Play for Apple platforms will offer the same content -- not sure why that wouldn't be the case.

Content widgets are intelligent -- they make recommendations, and learn from what you like and watch, for example.

10:25 a.m. PST: The Google menu bar has seven items. Lots more to squeeze in on a tablet.

Chrome browser for Android is the default browser. (I wonder if Mozilla is busy working on a new version of Firefox for Android.)

10:27 a.m. PST: Yerga is now showing Google Maps and how it looks on the tablet. Lots more information can be explored, so he's showing inside a bar and how it can use a compas mode. This is now connected to device gyro so you can follow the image around with a simple tilt and move. Very sweet way to view something.

10:28 a.m. PST: Maps also sports the ability to see map info offline -- you have to select it, and there it is. A first for Nexus 7.

Google Currents, the Google news curation app, now formats the content for the tablet device. It also uses Google Translate to view the text right there in another language. Really nice.

10:29 a.m. PST: The CPU, GPU plus accelerometer and gyro make the Nexus 7 a gaming device, of course. Yerga is demonstrating the detailed rendering, the smooth animation, and so on.

10:31 a.m. PST: Dead Trigger game, using some great violence and gore (guns, blood). Really very Tarantino-esque. Not sure it's life like but it's a pretty cool demonstration of those 12 GPU cores at work.

10:32 a.m. PST: I wonder how thin the Nexus is. It will be $199. $25 credit to spend in the Google Play store. Comes with a movie, a book, some magazines. Starting today, you can order today on Google Play and ships in mid July.

10:34 a.m. PST: Android was meant for more than phones and tablets, Google says. Project Tungsten was launched last year, and now we're going to hear more about this. Hardware, software and cloud = new possibilities. Play + Android in a consumer product called Nexus Q. Very mysterious.

Consumer electronics = software and hardware and cloud, not just hardware.

10:35 a.m. PST: It's round. Looks like a glowing orb. Fits into the palm of your hand.

It supports NFC, so you tap your phone to it and get your content. (I know this is sort of nebulous. What is it? I'm not entirely sure. A content hub?)

A third wave of consumer electronics, Google says.

10:36 a.m. PST: Android powered computer for the home. Plugs into speakers, TV, always cloud connected. Integrated with Play.

Use tablet and phone to control it. Pulls content from Play NOT from your device.

So kind of a cloud based content server, connected to the cloud.

10:37 a.m. PST: OMAP 4460 -- same chip in Galaxy Nexus. Amplifier built in. 25 watts to power your speakers.

TI makes the chips.

10:38 a.m. PST: Optical digital audio, micro HDMI outputs for TV. Dual band WiFi and Ethernet, NFC and Bluetooth. Micro USB ports to connect future hardware and to encourage general hackability (their words, not mine).

Demo time...

Music collection in the cloud. He's controlling it with a phone (looks like the tablet, but heck it could be the Galaxy Note).

10:40 a.m. PST: The Q audio sounds great (of course, this is a massive keynote room with great speakers, but it's being powered by the amplifiers). LEDs respond to the music and the visualizer can be displayed on your TV. Not sure what use that is, other than to trip out your teenagers.

10:41 a.m. PST: Cloud connected social juke box. Your friends can add to your Google Play music experience. Thus, it's a socially connected music experience. Interesting. The demo is showing the music collections of three different people, all shared in the "Living Room" of listening within Google Play running on Q.

10:42 a.m. PST: I imagine coming to a party, and people can all contribute to the music experience of the party with their own collections.

I'd love the ability to do that with chosen friends, whether they are there or not. I wonder if it works that way. Social streaming...tasty

10:43 a.m. PST: You can also do this with movies. If you bring your movies, you can play it on your friend's living room TV if you're connected with the Q. Very cool.

10:45 a.m. PST: There's no authentication. I'm not entirely sure how MY content gets played from Q if it's not MY home. Don't I have to log in? The device I have controls it, so I imagine if I'm logged in on my device, it'll talk to Q.

$299, you can pre-order today, and it begins shipping in mid July.

10:46 a.m. PST: I think the social streaming makes it somewhat different than Apple TV using iTunes.

10:47 a.m. PST: We're wrapping up now.

As expected: Google Android Jelly Bean updates, a new tablet from Asus and Google, optimized around Google Play (again, expected).

And a new device, called Google Q.

Gundotra coming back out.

10:48 a.m. PST: It FELT like it was the end. Might there be more?

Gundotra is talking about Google Plus' one year anniversary. "We really think we're onto something special."

10:50 a.m. PST: There's a video (really it's just audio) with people talking about how they're using Google Plus, and hangouts. OK, there is video, watching planets. Google is really pushing hard on Google Plus.

10:52 a.m. PST: Google + is at the heart of Google's efforts to make Google experiences seamless and simple, Gundotra says. 250 million accounts, 150 million monthly active, 50% sign in daily. Those people use it 60+ minutes/day. And these numbers are growing. So what's next? Gundotra says Mobile. More users engaging from mobile than from desktop.

10:53 a.m. PST: The Mobile clients have been upgraded. But users want native tablet versions of Google Plus. The answer: today. It's a new version of Google Plus.

10:54 a.m. PST: The stream is faster and smoother, Gundotra says. The stream is stylized, so it's easy to scan while also looking at items in the stream. Popular posts with engagement are bigger to grab your attention.

10:55 a.m. PST: Hangout experience on a tablet the video experience is more intimate, Gundotra says. (Like what, I can whisper sweet nothings easier? I hate that word intimate when it's used improperly.) It switches video based on who is talking.

New navigation, new ribbon bar, new profiles that are explorable, and other improvements.

This is not just for Android, but also for the iPad.

10:56 a.m. PST: Google Plus available for the iPad "very soon" and for Android today

All of the app improvements will be available on the Android phone version as well.

10:57 a.m. PST: Another Google Plus announcement, around real life sharing. Sharing happens at picnics, weddings, and so forth -- basically at events. Substance of real world event is sort of lost on line, Gundotra says. Online event tools are about who's coming and where it is. What about during and after the event?

10:58 a.m. PST: Announcing: Google Plus Events.

For an event, you usually invite someone. The product has lots of ways to send very cinemagraphic invites. And it has integration with Google Calendar for those invites.

11:00 a.m. PST: In Google + the demo brings up the calendar, he fills in the data, and then chooses from a couple dozen cinemagraphs (basically animated graphic templates for an invite). The guests can be invited via e-mail (Google isn't insisting on those guests being on Google +).

11:01 a.m. PST: Recipients can see the event, see if they are available (with calendar integration), and then click yes. The calendar then gets things like the cinemagraph and a list of friends who are coming to the event and so on. Updates from the host, photos and other items all right there.

11:02 a.m. PST: That's all the before-event stuff. During the event, photos are a big deal for re-living the event. A feature called Party Mode lets you share photos -- they get added to the event in real time.

There's a live slide show feature, too.

11:03 a.m. PST: Turning on party mode goes right to the camera. And there's a party mode notification, so you can see all the photos and posts as they come in. The photos just show up in your Google Plus stream.

11:06 a.m. PST: I like the ability to integrate these capabilities for an event, but at what point do I stop being IN the event, and just watching the meta-event around the event? Anyone who has had to film a recital or sporting event with their kids knows what I mean -- you're no longer really there, just capturing it. This takes it a few steps beyond. But maybe I'm just weird. (Don't answer that.)

Sergey Brin just walked on stage to interrupt Gundotra.

He says this is time sensitive new stuff.

11:07 a.m. PST: He's got the Google Glasses on. He's going to show us a demo.

Good cuz I'm tired of Google + and Google + Events.

11:09 a.m. PST: There's a real blimp overhead hear, and inside there is someone also with Glasses. And Brin is going to launch a Hangout.

Via a Hangout, someone in the blimp is looking out and we can see his view (of Moscone). He's going to come on down from the blimp. They're going to jump. He's got a camera hooked up.

Using a GoPro camera.

11:10 a.m. PST: Share what you're seeing live. That's what's being demo'd. Oh wow. He's gonna jump. And we're going to see what he's seeing.

11:12 a.m. PST: Now the jumpers are going to glide down to the Moscone roof. Hope they know it's Moscone West, not the other buildings.

11:14 a.m. PST: Now we've gone to bikes and tricks on the roof. And scaling the building. I suspect they're coming into the keynote room.

11:16 a.m. PST: I think the whole Google Plus talk was just to buy time for this Glasses demonstration.

11:17 a.m. PST: Now onto more details on Google Glasses.

11:19 a.m. PST: Includes a camera, a processor, memory. There's a touch pad on the side. There's a microphone, and a speaker. There are gyros and accelerometers and a compas.

It also has multipe radios for data comm.

It's really taking computing technology and put it into a Glasses form factor.

11:20 a.m. PST: The glasses look pretty nice, especially on the "model" they have up on screen. Just sayin.

11:21 a.m. PST: Virtual and real world come together. The display is above the eye. The glass doesn't block your vision. It's really light, they say. Physically and visually light.

Weighs less than many sunglasses, Google says.

11:23 a.m. PST: One example being showed off: Serving a tennis ball and streaming the video into Google Plus. Really odd and very cool.

The design is scalable, with the components off to one side, but balanced. So there may be different form factors -- for wearing with sunglasses, prescription glasses and so on.

11:24 a.m. PST: What's the application prospect? Communication through images and rapid access to information.

11:25 a.m. PST: You send messages with the alphabet. But doing so with images could be revolutionary, Google thinks.

With Glasses, you can catpure moments and memories more easily, more naturally.

11:26 a.m. PST: And the view is first person -- it might express the feeling of a moment. So perhaps an entirely new way of crafting an image experience for others.

11:27 a.m. PST: One example Google is showing is a step by step meal creation, using images.

11:29 a.m. PST: During all of this demonstration, with two of the Google Glass team, Sergey Brin is standing on stage, watching and smiling, kind of looking like the proud papa.

11:30 a.m. PST: One of the goals is to access information faster. Essentially it's the idea of a wearable computer.

And an ability to stay engaged in the physical world but also get information -- how fast you're going on a bicycle, for instance.

11:34 a.m. PST: Sergey Brin is talking about this "wearable computer" being more than about images. They continue to talk about their small team, and limited experience with the glasses. The Glass Explorer Edition is coming out.

11:35 a.m. PST: Developers at this show can pre-order them.

In other words, time to get some beta testers.

Better than a tablet or a phone. Woo hooo.

11:36 a.m. PST: $1500, though. And you can't get it until next year.

11:38 a.m. PST: Gundotra is back on stage.

11:39 a.m. PST: Video. Good vibe, Google + Events, ain't it grand, Blah blah blah.

11:40 a.m. PST: Google + Events means you are going to be able to enjoy an event without having to worry with devices. But it seems that's what people will be doing, to me at least.

First Google Plus event will be an after hours party with Paul Oakenford and Train.

11:41 a.m. PST: One last piece of exciting news for us -- attendees, I suspect. An Android developer pack. It includes a Galaxy Nexus phone (yum), a Nexus tablet, with a Jelly Bean preview version.

11:42 a.m. PST: And one more thing.

A Q.

So they are giving out: Phone, tablet, Q. Availabe at 4 pm. OK then.

11:43 a.m. PST: We will try our best to get these for our Live Valley View show later today, but it's probably going to be difficult. Show starts at 4 pm, and the devices aren't available until 4 pm. In case we do, we'll try to show them off.

11:45 a.m. PST: And that's it. Lots of fun news, all of it pretty much expected. Time for the real conference to begin, with deep dives into APIs. And after that keynote, I need some sour belts and gummy bears, so off to the candy bins. Thanks for joining us.

Watch for more coverage from Google I/O on and Dr Dobbs all week. And BYTE.

About the Author(s)

Fritz Nelson

Vice President, Editorial Director InformationWeek Business Technology Network

Fritz Nelson is a former senior VP and editorial director of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network.

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