Impressive keynotes at the Google IO conference over the last couple of days. Eric Schimdt opened but most of it was led by Vic Gundotra. He’s ex Microsoft, so not unused to being the lead in technologies and Google certainly seem to be pushing the leading edge as fast as they can. Lots more services; lots more apps, lots more things in the browser that you wouldn’t believe a couple of years ago (or maybe one year ago!). He gave everyone a free Android and a month free on the sim card. That made everyone smile, then surprise them all with Google Wave at the end. Very supportive of HTML5 and pushing Java everywhere. They made you want to start using all the apps now, even Google Wave which is still at an early beta.The big push is towards more openness. Google will open up areas where you can easily run your app; they make it easy to run in the browser but also now run when disconnected. It just shouldn’t be this easy for new programmers to do this. They will surely not be able to appreciate the skills of programming if they haven’t had hours wasted installing servers and more hours setting up a development system. This is just cut and paste programming but it makes me excited.
Google’s outlook on life seems to be to give facilities to bright people with ideas and to make it as easy for them as possible to plug the pieces together to make something special. GWT and the AppEngine are being used by millions every day. They passed the 4 billion api calls/day recently. The solution is to keep everything simple and make it all real time. No installs; no builds; no delay – just a constant stream of features that can then be opened up to other people and can be scaled to be anywhere in the world. These new programming models can take the best of the apis, mash them together and produce a new stream for others. What is happening is the browser is beginning to be the centre of the application. The web is just for processing power and services; the local desktop is just for temporary storage while the web has briefly disappeared. The battle is for the browser.
The power in the browser is amazing and on the increase. They had a demo showing motion detection, with a live view of the differentials as someone crossed the screen. Google are pushing HTML5 which is supported by Firefox, Opera, Safari and of course Chrome. Internet Explorer has expressed support, but is not quite there yet. THe new canvas and video tags make great demos. Page sizes are growing with all the functionality so Google are trying to ease the loading burden using developer guided code splitting. Call the runAsync routine to do the loads in the background. Michael Abbott was there from Palm to give some support for the vision. HTML5 will be a key element in bringing these new richer apps to the mobile space, to bring in accelerometer, orientation, geolocation etc. HTML5 will also bring background threads for a better ui experience. Even a better developer experience. Andrew bowers shoed how quickly an app could be put up there and used some real time java debugging, but the next gwt will get debug in the browser.
The app engine is also improving. Google Moderator was praised for the way it scaled during the Obama election. There is now ssl support, a memcache api, better system status information, and a quota that can be increased if you’re prepared to pay for the extra. They also mentioned getting at secure data behind a firewall. I haven’t looked at that. Too many ideas and not enough time.
The youTube model of cutting and pasting a bit of code into your html page has been extended with the Google Web Elements to maps, search engine, news feeds and now a social/conversation engine. Still just a cut and paste, but with all the power underneath. It is so quick to implement.
There will be some pressure on Flash with the new HTML5 facilities, especially so in the 3D area. Papervision and Away3D will have to contend with what will undoubtedly be a popular upstart of open 3D from Google – O3D. The example renders look fantastic because they have made the decision to use the GPUs to do this. It’s a decision that people have been pushing Flash towards but there are millions of browsers out there that may have problems so Adobe fans have stayed within the software rendering boundaries. Google 3D will cause a few ripples and it will be interesting to see where all this comes to in the mobile realm.
Android is certainly creating a huge buzz especially after Vic’s Oprah moment of giving away 4,000 of the handsets. Mobile apps are being developed as fast as for the iPhone. Android has new adaptive search facilities, the text to speech in several languages and on screen drawing. Developers will take the open source engine and be creative. Google will encourage them with another stage of the Android Developers Challenge coming in August. Scratch your head for the ideas; the facilities to make them are there already.
Vic exploded the new ideas on the final day by introducing Lars Rasmussen to give a talk on Google Wave. This seems to be a blend of every type of conceivable communication. It has flavours of email mixed with the instantness of Twitter. It has sharing of pictures and documents. Users will be able to share and edit uploaded documents in real time. All this messaging will then be embedable into your blogs and wikis in the same way as other Google Elements. Although the technology is there, Google appears to be kite flying to see what ideas people might have and which direction it could go. By allowing access to all the participants at the conference, they have an enthusiastic set of alpha testers willing to throw some effort in to see what comes out at the end. It’s all developed using open apis; you can use defined protocols to interface other systems to it. It may be the cause of bringing a de facto standard to HTML5, as this will be needed to make it work. Where will Flash be in this arena and where Microsoft? Google are putting their money on being open and being there first is usually a large part of the battle.