Phil Nickinson at Google I/O

Three days just isn't enough to absorb all the info from Google I/O. In fact, it's physically impossible to get to every session, be it due to overlaps, overcrowding (only so many seats) or overexhaustion. It's a good problem to have, though, and Google handles it quite well.

In case you've been living under a rock, in addition to streaming a number of the key sessions live, Google also records them, so you can watch at your leisure. And that's what I've been doing since returning home from San Francisco, the better to get a grasp on all the new features and services announced. And if you've never seen one of these developer sessions before, you might be surprised just how entertaining and engaging they can be. This was my fourth Google I/O, and it still catches me a little off guard.

You can watch the developer sessions on YouTube.

Another surprise this year was the keynote address. Consolidated into a single address this year (as opposed keynotes the first two days at previous events), it went a whopping 3.5 hours. (Longer if you could the time spent waiting in line.) And it was time well-spent. There was so much information crammed into our brains in far less time than it took many of us to even get to San Francisco. But between all the new Google Play services, and the new Google Maps, and the improved Google+, and the Google Play game services -- and that's just the major Android stuff -- I could have gone another hour, easy. 

There's not a lot I can say about Larry Page's appearance -- his first such speech at Google I/O in the years I've attended -- that you can't get from watching the recording. (And I recommend you do.) But I will say this: I've always believed a good CEO should overreach a little. The more Apple-friendly pundits love to poke fun at some of the things Eric Schmidt has said over the years, and perhaps rightfully so. There's certainly a fine line between cheerleading, inspiring and downright crazy talk. And occasionally crossing that line opens you up to jokes and criticism, but I love the sort of head-first-into-the-wall mentality. It's what makes Google Google, it's what gets things done, and it's what moves us forward.

A few more thoughts on the week that was:

  • This year's Google I/O certainly had more of a developer event feel to it than a press event. That's a good thing, seeing as how it is a developer conference.
  • The update to Google Play Music is a good one, as is the addition of All Access subscription streaming. (Don't forget to get in on it by June 30 if you wan to save a few bucks for the first year.) I still miss the now-defunct Zune Music Pass feature of being able to download albums for offline use under the subscription umbrella. Those were the good old days.
  • And as I've mentioned a few times in the past week, while I'm disappointed to see Nexus Q support pulled from the new Play Music app, it's not surprising. And neither will it be surprising to see a replacement device in the near future, and it looks like one already has hit the FCC.
  • Speaking of music, I caught the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on HBO this weekend. How ridiculously awesome is Gary Clark Jr.?
  • The new Google Maps are beautiful. Be sure to get in on the preview if you haven't already.
  • The new Google Hangouts is a good start, but obviously there's plenty of work left to be done integrating it throughout all the Google products. Funny how the early leaks were positioning it as the chat app to end all chat apps, though.
  • Same goes for all the silly prepositioning of Nexus 5 stories, never mind anyone with a calendar and rudimentary understanding of history knew not to expect the next generation at Google I/O.
  • I finally got to try Google Glass this week. Interesting, but so far from a commercial product. (I'm also not at all impressed by the point-of-view pictures. Those are a novelty and not really the exciting part of Google Glass. But I am intrigued by the privacy concerns. More on that in future column, perhaps.)

Google I/O was just the start of the next generation of Android, of course. The foundation laid last week will serve us for months and years. My thanks to the Googlers and developers for letting this interloper spend a few days learning a thing or three.

And now, we're off to CTIA. See y'all this week from Las Vegas. By the way, I'll be on TWiT's "All About Android" this Tuesday. Be sure to tune in.


Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: After Google I/O


"I still miss the now-defunct Zune Music Pass feature of being able to download albums for offline use under the subscription umbrella."

You know you can save music for offline use that you don't own with All Access right? I just did it last night. Works like a charm. You have to use the official music app, but still.

You're only Human, bound to miss one or to little things, that was so much information at I/O. I hope they had a break for the 3 1/2 hour keynote, I don't think I could do it for that long.

Other than the limited number of active devices you can have "authorized" on Google Play Music at once (I think its about 10-12), I don't think theres a limit to pinning on your device for offline listening.

The changes highlighted a difference between Apple and Google.

Apple imagines how someone would navigate things, what they would want to do, and then designs their interface to make it easy.

With Google music and hangouts... Google said, "how do we want users to use things", and then they funneled us into using it that way.

I prefer android, but the horrible hangouts app and the "inception" like navigation of Music while trying to get back to the main screen or do simple functions is killing the experience.

Wow, seriously? I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I'd say you have it backwards. Making users work with things the Apple way is pretty much the heart of iOS, from interface design to saddling users with iTunes to not letting users choose their own default browser apps.
Whether you like one app UI or another is a simple matter of taste (and I love both the music and Hangouts app designs). Apple tells you that you're stuck with it, Google gives you the option of never having it open again.

I immediately regretted making my comment, LOL.

Open your music app. Pick an artist from your library click on a similar artist, add one of their songs. Build a ten song playlist that way, and then try to go back to the beginning and look at your music. You'll see what I mean.

With messaging... ios behaves like this: I want to send Bill a message. I send it. If he's offline, it goes to text. If not, it goes via web. There's no "end user" difference. No logging on, no wondering how/when it'll be seen, no wondering if that person even uses iMessage and if they'll get it.

With the new hangouts, who knows? It's wholly locked in.

I have two nexus devices, I use Google plus and music EVERY day. I traded my iPad and iPhone in a year ago and couldn't imagine going back. I am just being objective. I PERSONALLY, feel like they didn't consider how the end user would experience the apps.

I don't want to make any statements about other platforms I don't care about, but in terms of hangouts I wholeheartedly agree actually (haven't messed around with much more than basic functions in music). You don't have to go much further than the status indicator. It's gone in hangouts. If you found it useful or it like there too bad. Google apparently thinks that because you don't get one for SMS (which isn't supported) you shouldn't need one for web.

That's all well and good, but not everyone is going to use hangouts. Most of the people I talk to are using gmail chat. Several of them have been very confused because I'm a constant yellow status regardless of where I am. Can I do anything about it? Nope.

And as to your question about where your messages go, I know the answer. They go to hangouts. And if the person is using gmail they might not go there at all if the person isn't logged in. Before if you sent a message to a person who was offline it became an email. Not anymore. So not only is there no clear way to know if a person is there. There's no clear way to know if you might have a message.

You might say, "tell them to get a smartphone." Well not everyone wants one. Not everyone wants to get forced into using plus for messaging when they've used gmail for so long. This is supposed to be cross platform and it's pretty damn hamfisted so far. I think I'll likely be downgrading back to talk till they get it sorted.


"If you do it in front of other people it is done in Public, not in Private."

So if you are doing it around someone who is wearing Glass, in is Public, not private behavior. Issue solved. Why do we try to make it harder?

Phil I would have to agree w/ you about I/O this year. The past few years it seemed people were just buying tickets to ge the free swag and then sell it for outrageous prices. By making it more about the devs it showed google is serious about bring richer content and helping the devs do the same. Looking forward to the new maps looks just awesome.

"...never mind anyone with a calendar and rudimentary understanding of history knew not to expect the next generation at Google I/O."

So much this. It was getting ridiculous there for a while.

I don't think so, I think they are not using the "Nexus" name on purpose. We can split hairs and play semantics all day but when it comes down to it this is NOT a new Nexus device.

From my experience, the HTC One.

Just got back from taking some photos and video using the One alongside my Nexus 4, and the differences in quality is pretty substantial, even at default settings.

If you enjoy playing media such as music, or videos on your device, it makes the choice obvious.

In the few weeks I have spent with it, it is definitely the Android device I recommend.