Report on Google IO 2011

[I spent a few days in Boston after IO and only got around to writing this post on the plane back to Ireland.]

Overall, Google IO 2011 was a fascinating technical conference – definitely the best conference I’ve been to. (Most of the conferences I have previously attended are academic conferences and have quite a different feel).

Unfortunately, I missed the bootcamp, so the conference opened for me on the first day proper – next time, I’ll definitely make the effort to get to the bootcamp as I heard lots of good things about it.

The conference took place in the Moscone West and was attended by about 5000 folks; there was quite a diverse mix of folks in attendance – students, startup guys, people from classical techie companies as well as people from companies who were IT users rather than tech companies. The conference took place over the 3 floors of the Moscone, with the top floor totally dedicated to Android – a very clear message regarding how important Android is to Google – and the second floor showcasing a mix of Google technologies, ranging from Geo to dev tools to Apps, with a large area dedicated to Chrome. These areas were filled with companies who had been working with Google and Google gave them some space to show their wares.

The opening keynote was focused on Android. The Googlers talked about how usage of Android was rocketing with 400,000 new signups each day. They announced a music service and talked about the movie service which had been covered in the media the day before. They talked about support for more devices interacting with Android and Arduino based systems in particular – the audience did get quite excited about this. They talked about the new version of Android, named Ice Cream Sandwich, and some of the features it would provide; one which is very important is a means to upgrade the OS easily which they claim has buy-in from key device manufacturers. Finally, they talked about the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a new Honeycomb tablet from Samsung, and announced that everyone would get one.

After the keynote, the multi-stream session format commenced and there was a wealth of content to chose from. I didn’t go to very many of the talks and I’m not going to cover them here, save to say a couple of words about the more interesting ones I attended below.

I spent a little bit of time hanging out at the GTUG lounge – I was there with GTUGs after all.

On the second day, there was another keynote, this one focused on Chrome. This was a really interesting session with lots of interesting new announcments. They talked about how Chrome has evolved and how it is now a realistic platform for building apps – the Javascript engine is sufficiently fast now and the graphics support can give
excellent performance if WebGL acceleration is used. They discussed the new payment mechanisms which will be possible from within Chrome apps and the cut Google will take on these transactions. Finally, they talked about their vision for Chrome OS – this was particularly compelling to me. They plan on offering Chromebooks for $28/user/month to organizations and will provide a Chromebook to all of the attendees of the conference.

The highlight of the conference had to be the after party – this took place on the eve of the first day. As well as providing food and drink for everyone, the after party, named ‘The Infinite Playground’, provided a space to showcase lots of far out and very cool technology. Examples of the types of things on show included Sphero’s, Sifteos,YikeBikes, the GM EN-V, a motorbike that could expand and contract and a vehicle which could be used for both driving and flying. While the commercial angle on lots of these technologies was not clear, it was obvious that they were cool and innovative and the crowd really loved them. The after party really did try to communicate that Google at heart is an engineering company and loves engineering innovation (ie cool stuff!). Jane’s Addiction also played at the party, but I have to say that the dancing Android trumped them in my book.

Regarding the plethora of technical sessions – there were far too many interesting ones to cover them here. They are all on Youtube. I did really like one on the Prediction API and one on Protips for Android was quite nice.

Google IO is definitely one of the best technical conferences that takes place each year from many perspectives – fun, educational, networking – I’m going to make it my business to be there next year. Roll on IO 2012!

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About morphousmusings
Engineer, thinker, tinker, drinker, talker, walker, hiker, biker, liker, lover

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