Today concludes the first day of the 2013 Google I/O developer conference. This year’s I/O event was a bit unique in that it started with a three hour keynote, and is the only day for which a keynote is to occur. This is unlike the previous year where the first and last days had keynotes scheduled. The keynote also oddly ended without a significant announcement regarding the Android platform, or the controversial Google Glass program. I discovered that attendees of the 2013 I/O conference would not have an opportunity to participate in the Google Glass Explorer program, which became another pain in the side of people who had to suffer through the very unreliable registration process the previous years for this conference.
While the keynote had these two large omissions, it was filled with some relevant, and well-received updates. In particular from a social perspective, Google has performed a significant revision of their Google+, Hangout, and Messenger applications and effectively unified them for once under one common infrastructure. This allows users to have synchronized conversations between many of Google’s platforms, but also between different devices, without missing a beat in conversation. Including this, they made a significant change in the user interface to match that of the evolving Google+ model, which I have to admit is a pleasing direction that they are taking.
The second of the two changes I’ve felt were significant for me was the announcement of the “Google Music All Access” service. The analogy I would like to use here is a web-based version of Microsoft’s Xbox Music (or really, their Zune Music model). I’ve always enjoyed Zune Music, and probably have had two thirds of my collection through their service, the other being non-DRM music that I have purchased. For those unfamiliar with what Microsoft offers, they allow you to pay a monthly fee to download an unlimited amount of DRM music for free, which can be played on any compatible Microsoft device. In this case, it was limited to the Zunes and supposedly the Windows Phone devices as well. Google has developed a similar service that allows you to choose any song or album and add it to your library, allowing you to revisit and play the songs in full any number of times, for a slightly less cost than what Microsoft offers ($8/month versus $10/month respectively). I have enjoyed Google Music more than Zune recently, only for the shear fact that I’ve been able to pull up my uploaded collection at any time and listen to my music, particularly under the various conditions I find myself in at work. I don’t have to carry an additional device around, I simply can open my web browser. Of course, the biggest downside of this is the lack of music availability in conditions for which there is no network connectivity, but alas, this is the service.
Lastly, one of the things many attendees enjoy anticipating at the conference is the well-known “swag” that is received, arguably the best out of any conference since the total retail value often far exceeds the cost the attendees had to pay to attend the event in the first place, at least minus the airfare and hotel. There was much speculation that the swag was going to include another revision of the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 devices, or perhaps the fabled Motorola Google X device. This did not end up to be the case to much surprise. The only swag given out this year was a Chromebook Pixel, and depending on where you lived, outside or inside the United States, attendees either would’ve received the 32GB WiFi model for the former, or the 64GB LTE model for the latter. Many people have been confused the choice of swag, given that a vast majority are attending for the purposes of using Android, especially when the majority of talks are focused on this platform. I have always considered the Pixel an interesting laptop, one that is very well engineered, although I have never been able to use one directly until today. I have to admit my initial taste of the hardware remains. It is great, and easily comparable to the Macbook Pro. The form factor is quite nice with a beautiful screen to go along with it.
The software on the other hand is left to personal taste. It is generally agreed upon that the $1,450 price tag for a laptop that is simply a browser is quite excessive. This was blatantly obvious to me when within the first 10 minutes of using the laptop I was contemplating and researching how I might be able to install another Linux on top of or along side Chrome OS. I would love to be able to use Fedora on this laptop with Gnome 3. Even though the hardware is very nice, I would not recommend someone purchase it for the purposes of Chrome OS. Some also have speculated that this ridiculous circumstance is a precursor to an upcoming shift in Chrome OS, but this will left to be seen.