Phil Nickinson

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.



Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: Google I/O 2012 postmortem


They have money for all these cheesy statues they put on the lawn, but they cant seem to get their "flagship" podcast program to be stable.
The program named "Listen" is their main podcast program and yet it cant find some
very popular podcasts, also it stops and freezes while playing for no reason.
When you open it back up to hit play again, it doesnt even take you back to the app's last state, which is pretty dumb.

So Google, lets spend a little less time riding around your offices on razr scooters, or sliding down your slide in the office, and lets get your "flagship" podcast
program working properly. OK, yeah thanks.

Spend a couple $ on another "podcast program" then, you cheapskate! LOL!

Seriously though, Pocket Casts is my favorite & I'm sure other people will weigh in on ones they like.

I had Carbon on WebOS, and oh dear god was it an awesome app. It made every other Twitter app out there look primitive... and that was a year ago. I still haven't found anything that could compare on Android. I'm as excited for Carbon as I am for Jellybean.

Having magazines in Google Play is pretty cool. I wish they would set it up similar to Books. So I can read them on my pc in Chrome.

I love the push Google is making into content. I wish I could find more music I want on Google Music and a lot of titles I can't find in Books.

What I am really missing is some way to give Google Play to friends and as gifts. Go to your local market and there is a wall of gift cards, iTunes, Amazon, but NO Google Play gift cards. Someone at Google needs to make their content store EASY, EASY, EASY for the everyday consumer to purchase. Unless of course Apple has gift cards patented :/

"Google needs to make their content store EASY, EASY, EASY for the everyday consumer to purchase. Unless of course Apple has gift cards patented :/"

As someone deeply immersed in the Apple ecosystem, I gotta say....I laughed out loud.

@JohnPA2006 - I held out hope for a while re: Listen, but I think it may be time to move on. Give Pocket Casts a whirl. Though, if Google ever gives me an updated version that syncs between devices and includes a great desktop webapp to boot, I'll switch in a heartbeat.

I know you must get this a lot but I for one would love them to at least talk about the rest of the world...

Google music, still not in the UK, Why not? are they even working on getting it outside the US?

Nexus Q, similar story, US only, how come? what are the hurdles stopping it from being a worldwide product and do they at least have an idea when it will ship overseas??

I do understand that there are reasons, I'd just like them to talk about it and not just pretend that those of us outside the US don't know what's going on...

Anyone else think magazines subscriptions are a bit too much? I mean, I can get all the same content from Currents, now tab optimized in JB.

Overall I thought Google I/O was great. I ordered the Nexus 7 as soon as the order page went live and I can't wait to try out features like Google Now and the new notifications system. Oh, and Project Butter? Yes, please!

I'm loving that the tablet is a Nexus and will get instant updates. I may make my next phone a Nexus as well (still waiting on ICS for the Sprint GSII...) when the new crop comes out later this year, possibly with a hotspot connection and Google Voice instead of a traditional plan.

The addition of TV content to Google Play is great, but I will not "buy" individual episodes. I would, however, "rent" them for about 25c each or less. You can rent movies through Google Play, so why not TV episodes? If I like a show enough then I could potentially see buying them by the season, though, which is offered currently.

lol apple released the ability to search from the address bar, jpg email attachments, and native turn by turn lol (ok 3 yrs late)
Blackberry announced fake OS possibilities
Microsoft announced color coded tablets forcing you into Metro
Google had skydivers, bike stunts, repelling, A new OS, a killer Tablet for the price, and a Borg Sphere

BlackBerry also sold bricks for the last two years playbook brick all phones bricks all I can say is go Google I will be buying nexus from now on.

AT&T and T-mobile suck in my area! This is the reason I have never left VZW, it's been almost 14yrs. I have heard enough of the VZW and Sprint are setting the Nexus platform back. Or that my GNEX is not a true GNEX, this is bananas. I understand why my phone does not get updates when the GSM variant does and why. My phone is rooted and running the preview version of Jellybean. I brought a Nexus on day 1 because I wanted to be able to do just that. I have a GNEX on VZW, I am not holding back the Nexus platform with my purchase. I brought a phone that I like that works in my area, it's not perfect but is the best stock Google phone on my network. I'll get off my soapbox now.

Some people (possibly not the best informed) are saying that Google-Android is starting to act more like Apple, with "Software and hardware hand in glove" sort of thing. That feels wide of the mark. After this very "Brand-Centred show - what do you, Alex and Jerry think about this notion?

Of all the consumer facing stuff this year I feel most uplifted by "Project Butter". Android has suffered from the "Always in beta" tag for so long. Focusing on the moment by moment user experience seemed to be a specifically Apple priority; so I am very VERY glad to see Google-Android maturing in this area.

The moment they did that search demo on day one, my "Infinity Loop" proximity warning sensors went crazy. Here we go again!

It sounds like Siri (and subsequent comparison tests on U-tube, suggests that it works better as well). That could keep Android phone manufacturers from updating existing hardware to 4.1 for months if ever. We all know why.

Any comments on that team?