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Google I/O Day One

I’ll have a news story about the first day of Google’s I/O conference, but for now, here are a few highlights from the show, culled from my own live viewing of the keynote stream and a Google blog post that summarizes the announcements.

Android is huge

Drawing an obvious distinction between its own mobile platform and, say, the iPhone, Google announced that there are now over 100 million activated Android devices. Additionally, the company activates an astonishing 400,000 Android devices every single day now. Every. Single. Day.

Ditto for Android Market: According to Google, there are now over 200,000 apps (free and paid) in Android Market. And customers have installed over 4.5 billion apps.

Android fragmentation is ending … Or at least lessening

One of the big complaints about Android is that the platform is fragmented, and of course with the addition of a separate tablet version (“Honeycomb”) that situation has gotten even worse. So Google announced today that the next version of Android (annoyingly named “Ice Cream Sandwich”) would rein in this fragmentation somewhat by being made available for all types of Android devices. “Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device,” Google notes. “Ice Cream Sandwich will bring everything you love about Honeycomb on your tablet to your phone, including the holographic user interface, more multitasking, the new launcher and richer widgets.”

Along these same lines, Google also announced the formation of “a founding team of industry leaders” that will essentially agree to Android version life cycles. That is, it will “adopt guidelines for how quickly devices are updated after a new platform release, and also for how long they will continue to be updated … new devices from participating partners will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released, as long as the hardware allows.” More info to come, but this announcement garnered a lot of applause.

Android hardware accessories

Google is moving Android well beyond today’s familiar phone and tablet form factors, and beyond the use cases such devices typically entail as well. Part of this strategy is the creation of an Android Open Accessory program that will help developers create new hardware add-ons for Android devices. There were some interesting demos along these lines, not the least of which was the use of a USB-connected Xbox 360 game controller with an Android-based game.

Google also showed off an initiative called Android@Home that will allow Android apps to discover, connect and communicate with appliances and devices in the home. Android Everywhere.

Google Music

As expected, Google launched Google Music today, albeit in an invite-only beta form. As with the very similar Amazon Cloud Player service, Google Music lets you upload your entire music collection to the cloud and then access it from the web or via an Android app. Unlike with Amazon, however, Google Music offers a lot more free storage: The company says its enough for 20,000 songs, which I assume means 20 GB of storage. Amazon offers 5 GB for free.

Movie rentals

Moving even further into iTunes territory, Google also announced a movie rental service (but not purchasing) which currently offers “thousands” of movies for $1.99 and up. The terms are pretty standard (one month to start, 1 day to finish watching once you do start) and the movies work on Android devices, of course, but also the web.

Interesting stuff all around.

By the way, I wanted to extend a “thank you” to Google for live captioning its Google I/O live streams. As the parent of a deaf child, I try to adopt captioning-friendly technologies, but to date it’s been pretty much hit or miss. Google has always done right by captioning, actually, but providing live captions an extra wonderful step. Thank you for that.
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