Google I/O '09: Wave overshadows Android

Last week in San Francisco, Google held its developer conference, Google I/O 2009. The bulk of the Android presence came in the form of the individual sessions, covering everything from application optimization and debugging to accessibility. Most of the ones I attended were fairly valuable, with a clunker or two in for balance. Most were fairly well attended, in particular Dan Morrill's presentation covering bits about native C coding for Android. Conversely, attendance at the Android sessions seemed to wane on the second day, perhaps due to fewer people sticking around for the sessions, but probably more due to the attraction of the Google Wave presentations. Google Wave rocked the house, more so than even the Google Ion (a.k.a., HTC Magic) giveaway. The Android “office hours” were well-attended by Google engineers, including many you see on the Android Google Groups. They had a fairly steady stream of people popping in for questions, which is a good sign considering that there was a fair bit of competition for one's time outside of the actual sessions. The first day's keynote felt a bit stitched together. The theme was, and should have been explicitly declared as, HTML5. As it turns out, this was a precursor to the Google Wave announcement the next day, as Wave is heavily dependent upon HTML5. The HTML5 implicit theme also meant that Android's coverage felt tacked on at the end — giving away $3 million via the second Android Developer Challenge warranted a bit more than a sentence or two. Partly, though, this is because of the Google Ion giveaway, as I expect Android would not have been mentioned at all otherwise. This is not unreasonable, as many other Google technologies and initiatives were ill covered (e.g., OpenSocial), though it was somewhat disappointing. Not that I'm knocking the Ion giveaway, of course. The Android Fireside Chat was interesting, in that core Android team members got put on the spot on a few topics. Generally, though, their answers were expected (e.g., on when Flash might be available, they said to ask Adobe). Some of the internal debates on answers between members of the panel, though, were a useful reminder that the core Android team is very human, and that not everything is cut and dried. That being said, it would have been useful if somebody from the Android Market group would have been on the panel, as a few questions had to get passed over because they pertained to the Market and nobody was empaneled to try to provide answers. A lot of the juicy stuff seemed to occur in the press area, and it felt a bit disjointed that the only way conference attendees would learn about that stuff was reading it later on some Web site or blog. The vendor display area offered very tight quarters. There was a ton more floor space available. Even if they did not want additional vendors, surely there must have been some way to allow people to readily move between vendors. Because of the crowds and cramped space, I spent much less time in the vendor area than I had intended, meaning I learned less about Android products than I had expected. Of course, conferences like this are as much about meeting people as they are about the formal program. I was glad to meet a few folk who I only knew through email and catch up briefly with other people who I have chatted with in the past. All in all, it was a reasonably successful event when examined through Android-colored glasses. I'm certainly on board for Google I/O 2010.

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