Hey, look at that. We've survived another edition of the Google I/O developer conference. I always feel a little out of place here, though. I'm a journalist, not a developer. And while most of the events I attend in the U.S. and abroad are showcases, tailored to pamper and impress in hopes of getting a favorable write-up (especially if the device is, shall we say, lacking), Google I/O isn't for me at all. That's not to say I don't learn anything, and that those of us in the Third-and-a-Half Estate don't have our usual great time. Because I do, and we do.
But I'm not a developer. When a Googler flashes a string of code up on a screen to the oohs and ahs of a couple hundred or couple thousand developers, I have only a fleeting understanding of what I'm looking at. (Oh, I get the broad strokes, but don't ask me to whip up an app for you anytime soon.) And make no mistake, this event's all about the developers, a fact Jerry so astutely reminded us of on Sunday.
As for me? Let's look back a little bit at what we saw this week -- and what we didn't see as well.
Content, content, content!
That's a play off Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's epic "Developers, developers, developers!" Youtube moment. Ever since Google abruptly killed off the Android Market and entered into the Google Play era, we pretty much knew we'd be seeing a serious content push. Movies have been around a while, but Google's still lacking in content. I use Google Music nearly exclusively now, but the lack of Warner artists leaves a pretty gaping hole. Books have been decent, though.
But it's the addition of television shows and magazines that can really start to take Google Play to the next level. I'm still on the fence about magazines -- simply showing me the usual magazine view on a tablet isn't enough. Adobe's made some great publishing tools for providing a compelling layout with minimal extra work. Or if you prefer an all-digital format, look at what Engadget's done with Distro. But it's a start. TV episodes aren't all that hard to comprehend -- it's just that they've been lacking.
The addition of the Nexus 7 and the Nexus Q to the Google Play Devices section rounds things out even further. This is Google's marketplace, and this is just the beginning.
Nexus, or GTFO ...
The idea of "Nexus" certainly has changed in the three and a half years it's been around for Google and Android. The Nexus One really was more of a developer platform device. The Nexus S dipped its toe into the consumer waters, first by being sold at Best Buy stores, and later by being sold subsidized by Sprint. The Galaxy Nexus continued that trend, though we're willing to bet more than a few of you (and us) would argue that Sprint and Verizon have set the Nexus platform back a good ways.
So now we have the Nexus 7 tablet. By most accounts, and from Andy Rubin himself, apparently, it was reaction to a relatively disappointing fleet of Android tablets -- and the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire. Make no mistake -- just as the Kindle Fire is the portal into Amazon's content sales, so, too is the Nexus 7 to Google's. I still think there are some serious marketing and store-front issues to content with, though.
But what really struck me at Google I/O last week was the downright exclusion of any device and any manufacturer not named Nexus. In years past, the likes of Sony, HTC and others have at least had small tables on which to show off their latest phones. This year? If they were there, they were very well hidden. (Of course, with that giant Nexus Q music orb looming overhead, it was easy to lose your concentration on other things and worry about a possible alien attack.)
This one was all about Nexus, and all about Google Play. Everyone else just makes devices, apparently.
The Nexus Q and Google TV
Google swears the Nexus Q, which in essences is a bad-ass stereo that can also play Youtube videos and is already being hacked to run apps, isn't an overt middle finger to its Google TV line. And, in fact, we've seen two new releases in the past week, from Sony and Vizio.
They're separate products, to be sure. But for as awesome as the Nexus Q looks, I can't help but wonder if it's just too nice for a time when commercial products have to be a cheap as possible. A lot of initial reaction (and a lot from folks who, mind you, haven't actually seen or touched the Q themselves) points to bewilderment at a product that puts form over function, leading to a higher cost. That's hardly new in consumer electronics, though. We've just gotten away from it in recent years.
More thoughts on that coming up this week.
Jelly Bean on the Galaxy Nexus
Honestly, I thought I was done with the Galaxy Nexus. The HTC One X has served me well, as has the Galaxy S III. But the Galaxy Nexus already has an early build of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and it's great to be back. The UI has been refined that much more, and it's ridiculously fast, thanks to Project Butter.
One fairly major issue I've run into, though, has been with AT&T. When I first popped my SIM card, which has been living in one of two LTE-enabled phones for the past couple months, back into the GNex, I couldn't get data. Then, suddenly, things started to work again. Then data dropped off again. And now it's back. And I won't be surprised should it disappear again.
AT&T told me that you're able to switch from one LTE device to another without any hassle, but going from an LTE device to a non-LTE device requires a change to your account on AT&T's end. What the hell? It's like being back on a CDMA carrier. (And in before "first-world problem" comments. This will become a bigger issue over time.)
On the other hand, plenty of folks have said they haven't had this issue at all.
I'll have some more thoughts on my return to the GNex later this week as well.
Other odds and ends ...
- For all the awesomeness mentiond above, do remember that Jelly Bean isn't officially out yet, and we're all basically playing with pre-release beta software.
- Carbon for Android: You will want this.
- Ep. 2 of The Newsroom: Not as strong as the first. And can Sorkin quit going to the "Things falling from the ceiling" well alread?
- Where's My Perry: An instant hit with my 5-year-old, who's already pretty damn good at Where's My Water.
- Google Now: Loving where this is going.