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Google IO 2011 Conference Summary

The Google I/O conference is a great chance to learn about new Google products, features and best practice from their expert engineers. It is aimed at developers using Google’s products, services and APIs (Application Programming Interface). Within this article, Mubaloo aims to highlight Android and App Marketplace news.

The Google I/O conference is a great chance to learn about new Google products, features and best practice from their expert engineers. It is aimed at developers using Google’s products, services and APIs (Application Programming Interface). Within this article, Mubaloo aims to highlight Android and App Marketplace news. 

Android

The keynote delivered some impressive statistics:

  • A total of 100 million Android devices have been activated
  • The number of activations every day has now reached 400,000.
  • Over 300 different Android devices are available in 121 countries with 224 mobile operators

This is staggering considering the platform is a mere 2.5 years old, proving not only is Android here to stay but it’s a huge force in the mobile industry.

Honeycomb 3.1 

Improvements to the tablet version of Android, Honeycomb, came in the form of USB connection options. The new USB host API allows Android devices to connect USB peripherals such as mp3 players, mice, gamepads, and digital cameras.

This opens up the possibility of mobile applications to print, manage and share you photos online direct from your digital camera without a computer. It also gives a opportunity for more immersive games with external controller and accessories.

A new Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) API for audio allows App developers to easily enable VOIP, push-to-talk, conferencing, and audio streaming features.

Android based GoogleTV will receive the Honeycomb 3.1 update in the summer.  Launched at last years Google I/O, this platform has been somewhat in the shadows, perhaps due its US only availability. Now, with full market place support, App developers world wide can deploy their Apps to US GoogleTV customers with minimal technical changes, providing new prospects for Apps and games. In addition, home screen widgets which can be easily overlaid on live TV could provide opportunities for real time trending and social networking on popular TV broadcasts.

Developers will want to check out the complete overview Android 3.1 Platform Highlights.

Ice Cream Sandwich 

Ice Cream Sandwich, Android 4.0, is scheduled for a end of year release. This version will combine all the features  from Honeycomb alongside further enhancements:

“Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device”

Mike Cleron, Android principal software engineer, Google

Details are still limited but it was announced it will be open source, Holo UI, with more multitasking, a new launcher and richer widgets. Demonstration showed face-tracking and camera focus shifting based on voice recognition.

Tips for future proofing your Apps

  • The new Holo theme should be the starting point for all User interface themes, following Ice Cream Sandwich it will be present in all three form-factors (televisions, phones, and tablets).
  • The Honeycomb APIs will be supported in Ice Cream Sandwich. Developers can gain a head start by targeting their Apps for Honeycomb to ensure compatibility.

Android Open Accessory

Following on from the new USB support in Android 3.1 there is a new API for Apps to interact with new hardware accessories such as musical equipment, exercise equipment, robotics systems, and many others. This is similar to Apple’s made for iPhone program (MFI) without the large fees and approval process for hardware manufactures. Likely to see a surge in compatible Android hardware accessories like the exercise bike demoed in the keynote.

Open Handset Alliance 

Google have founded an Alliance with the top carriers to ensure Android OS updates will be made available for devices for up to 18 months from release date. This is great news for Android users who are tied into longer phone contracts who in the past have been frustrated when faster more feature rich Android versions are released. This shows google are listening to users as this was often users’ biggest gripe.

Android Marketplace 

Google’s equivalent to the Apple App store, the Android marketplace, has reached the substantial milestone of 200,000 apps and games. Over 4.5 billion apps have been downloaded from the Android Market, which is about 45 apps per phone.

New Features to Marketplace

  • Android Market launches movie rentals which is great for consumers and helps the official android marketplace stay ahead of competitors such as AmazonAppStore and carrier apps stores like the Orange AppStore. This adds to Google Books launched in February.
  • Marketplace will soon have new channels to highlight including tops apps charts, improved related apps, Editors’ Choice, Top Developer and a personalised recommendations based on the apps you already have. Trending apps gives you an insight in to  quick look at what’s
  • The application and channels will be separated by 8 geographic regions, meaning users will get more relevant app recommendations.
  • Carrier billing in UK, should see an increase in App sales if follows the same trend as US.
  • To help App owners monitor sales Google have enhanced the available stats  by offering monthly sales reports. Sales figures from Jan 2010 are available.
  • The file limit has increased to 4GB.

These features are due in the summer.

Tip: upload (not publish) you app to the marketplace as soon as you’ve chosen your package name to reserve it.

Tip: Marketplace stats show users with more recent version of Android download more apps, Android 2.3 devices downloaded double the number of apps to Android 2.2. It makes a good case for focusing effort on designing Apps for the latest version. This makes the Open Handset Alliance even more relevant to App owners.

Google promoted the use House Ads as a great way of freely advertising your other Apps and generating more downloads.

To help App developers and publishers who want to drive more App downloads Google has created a great mini site www.guidetotheappgalaxy.com.

It guides you through the 4 key best practises to consider once App development is finished: Promote, Earn, Measure, Evaluate.

For a more in depth analysis of the Marketplace stats, see the Android Marketplace for Developers talk.

Conclusion 

We have covered a few interesting Android announcements but there were lots of other announcements and news including Google’s new music service, Android@home, Chromebooks and much more. In fact the Chromebook combination of software, OS and hardware for $29 per month is likely to be a game changer in terms of workstation computing for organisations and education.

In terms of Android, lots of new and interesting features are available today and the next major version for smartphones will be with us by the end of the year. This sets the stage for another exciting, successful and innovative year for the Android platform.

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