By now we're all back home from Google I/O and get back to work. For Android software developers, that means back to writing and building great Android apps, armed with everything they learned from a couple days at Moscone West, listening to the geniuses behind Android. And they have a full plate -- Google clearly is all about the apps now. Once you get past the exciting news from the keynotes and go past the new version announcements and assorted glamour and glitz, you see that from Chrome, to Google TV, to Android the focus is shifting to better application development.
Join us after the break to see just what Google has lined up to push Android application development to the next level.
Great apps need three things:
- A great mind behind the concept and implementation
- Tools and support from the folks behind the platform
- A way to promote and monetize
Android, by its geeky nature, has the great minds covered. We know -- we met a lot of them this week. You can feel the excitement as they try to get their ideas out of their heads and onto your phone or tablet, and it gets us excited about what's to come. Waiting in line to get into sessions and listening to the developers chat among themselves, kicking back after lunch, or checking out the new hardware, the conversations all had one thing in common -- how to make better apps.
But Android has always had excited and eager developers. What is missing from the equation, when compared to Apple, is the toolbox they have with which to work. Google has realized it needs to ramp things up a notch or two, and it's begun, folks. There were plenty of sessions about coding practices for things like game development, NFC (that's coming whether we want it or not by the way), and enterprise tools, but three very important developer sessions are going to set the pace for the awesome applications we'll be seeing in the upcoming months -- applications that have the great functionality we're used to from Android, with the polish and user-friendly UI that we all have been asking for. Let's have a look at how Google plans to cover points two and three from the above list.
It's something we don't often think about, because we're not Android application developers. Well, most of us aren't, anyway. But to get the great apps from big software houses on Android, you have to offer an incentive. (And devs certainly deserve to be paid for their hard work.) Google has made it much easier to monetize applications, using a non-conventional approach -- offer them free and make money from users who like the app enough to keep it installed and use it. Using tools like the new and improved Admob site and toolkit, or in-app billing is going to allow developers to offer a free application to the user, and still be able to make a living developing for Android. This will mean more and better apps for us end-users, and we all love that. Combine this with the new Market sections like trends and Editor's Choice that will make great apps visible to more users and you have a recipe for a successful business developing for Android.
User Interface improvements
Honeycomb brought a complete UI overhaul designed for tablets, and Ice Cream Sandwich (which I'm shortening to ICS from this point forward) is going to tie everything together with peace, love and harmony. There's more to what we as end-users see on the surface, though. The flexible and extensible API and framework gives application developers some great tools, allowing them to build one app that runs across a slew of devices of all form factors, that manages to look beautiful. The Google I/O 2011 app is the perfect example. It uses the action bar and app fragments for an application that runs and looks really good on any device you use it with. Google has open-sourced the I/O 2011 app, and Matias Duarte and friends spent an hour or so teaching developers how to work with the new API and tools in their own apps. This is going to lead to less development time, and a more unified look and feel for applications, which is something everyone has been wanting for several years.
New developer tools
This is probably the biggest and most exciting thing to come out of Google I/O for application developers, and was a standing-room-only event. Google has stepped up and created a great new layout editor for Android apps that fits right into the Eclipse IDE. Translated, that means that application devs no longer have to depend on tweaking cryptic XML code to design their apps' user interface, and instead can use a WYSIWYG editor that's powerful, and extends across all screen sizes and form factors. This heralds the end of apps that work great, do amazing things because of the open nature of Android, but look ugly (yeah, I hate to use that word but it fits far to often). Developers can now spend time on the code and function, and let the editor do all the hard design work. Tor Norbye and Xavier Ducrohet went over all the nuances of the latest development tools for Android, including a sneak preview of some changes coming to the emulator that are going to have a major impact on the way Android apps look and feel in the coming months. Giving developers better tools is a great way to encourage great things, as well as combat the whole "fragmentation" issue with a unified way to make things just work.
So Google I/O was about more than the parties, the swag and the robots. It was all about the apps, and ways to help the great Android developers make more and better ones. It was an exciting two days, and things are about to get better in ways we can only imagine. Phil and I had a great time and met a bunch of good people. I'm still a little star struck from having a cup of coffee while a few of us chatted up Vic Gundotra, and seeing his excitement about things only increased my own. We're ready for what's to come and know that you're all going to love it.