And we come to the last day of the Google I/O 2013 conference. On Friday, besides sessions there were also Code Labs, where you can get your feet wet on the new APIs and new features. I don't know what was longer, the line for breakfast or the line for dropping off luggage at the coat check. Sessions started at 9, and my first session was "The New Android SDK Build System", which was basically an introduction to Gradle, which is now the recommended build system for Android. If you know gradle the session will be pretty basic, but there are certain things that are android specific like assembleDebug or assembleRelease, so it's worth check it out.
After that I stayed for the next session "High Performance Applications with RenderScript", which was a really technical session on how to use RenderScript, the new library that allows you to take advantage of the device's GPU to run parallel, high performance calculations.
The first Code Lab I went to was the one entitled "From Zero to Hero: Integrating Google+ Sign-In on Android and Web in Less than Three Hours". Unfortunately the lab took longer than that and I couldn't finish it, but it was a nice introduction on how to use Google+ APIs.
Then I went to the last session of the day, which was a repeat session from earlier, "UX Design for Developers". In this session they described a couple of interesting concepts on how to design an application based on a certain Persona and certain Use Cases, and to focus more on the features instead of the product. It was an interesting session, and they have a Google+ community for people who want to learn more.
Overall the conference was OK in my opinion, but I think most of the session lacked more details. I suppose it is hard to really get deep into a topic in only one hour, plus you have to cater to a large group of people, some of which might not be as technical. I will definitely dig deeper into Android development and I hope to share my findings here. I was hoping to get an actual android device (tablet or phone) to deploy and test apps, but I guess that's not too much of a deal. As for the Pixel, I will do a more extensive review later, but one advantage that I really like (as I finish typing this blog post on the plane before they close the door) is the included LTE feature. And I just got the free 100MB/month, but for now that seems more than enough. And the Flight Attendant just announced they're closin the cabin doors...
The second day of Google I/O was filled with session. There are different tracks that you can choose which include topics like Android, Google Glass, Google+, GAE, Google Maps, Youtube, etc. Some sessions were more popular than others, of course. For example, there was one Google Glass session "Developing For Glass" that was completely full, including the overflow room. It is a good thing that most sessions are being recorded and made available later for everyone to see, but you miss on the opportunity to interact with the speakers.
I went to a couple of Android sessions, and saw a couple of demos from different companies that were showcasing their products (this is what you usually do at conference, it isn't all fun and games). I started with the session "Android Protips: Making Apps Work Like Magic". It was a somewhat generic session where its main idea is that we can use the new features in Android like Location API to dazzle users with innovative ways of interaction.
After that, I attended the session "Google+ Sign-In for Android Developers" where I learned how to take advantage of Android's Google+ integration to authenticate an user to your app, and to interact with other people on the user's circles.
Then I tried to go to the session "Enchant, Simplify, Amaze: Android's Design Principles", but it was full. I'm sure it was good but unfortunately it doesn't seem like this one was recorded. So instead I roamed around the developers sandbox and the companies showcasing their products.
In the session "Google Cloud Messaging" I got to see how you can use GCM to do push notification between your server and your apps in a fast, stable and reliant way.
Google has a new product called Mobile Backend Starter, which allows you to create an easy to configure backend that can be used to store and transmit data to your apps. The speakers actually demoed the generation of a project from start to the point they are sending messages between two phones using this tool. If you're interested, you can watch the session "From Nothing to Nirvana in Minutes: Cloud Backend for your Android Applications".
Finally I went to the session "Cross-Platform Auth with Google+ Sign-In", where I learned how to leverage Google+ user authentication/authorization in several platforms, including Android, iOS and web.
After that I roamed around for a while, got into a hunt game that had me running around the Moscone and then I went to a couple of parties to meet interesting people and talk about all that's been happening at the conference.
Wednesday was the first day of the Google I/O 2013 conference. The doors opened at 7 am to let close to five thousand individuals into the breakfast area and into the line that eventually led to where the keynote was to take place. The organization went pretty well, with most people forming a single line, up until we arrived on the first floor, where everyone just aglomerated there before being allowed to move to the second floor. Like cattle, we bumped each other for a while until finally they let us go upstairs. Finally, I made it to the keynote and I even had a good spot right in the middle of the room.
As this is my first Google I/O conference, I wasn't sure what to expect. The keynote started at 9 am sharp, and it was full with information about what Google is doing in different areas. The first area, Android, brought new features that have just been released like updates to the Location API, Maps API v2 and Google+ sign-in. Most importantly though, there is a new functionality available for Android that will allow people to play games in multiplayer mode using Google services for saving game data in the cloud so that it can be shared accross devices, for inviting other users, for having achievements and leaderboards and for sending actual game data between games. Google Play game services isn't only for Android, as they also provide an iOS implementation so games can interact between platforms. Unfortunately the demo failed, but this isn't the first time or the last time a demo will fail.
Next, Google announced a new IDE based on Intellij IDEA Community Edition, the Android Studio. It has many features that will help developers write robust Android apps, and it was a great and welcome surprise. They also announced improvements to the Developer dashboard that will allow better tracking of revenue and the possibility to do targeted deploys.
Moving away from the Android arena, Google had a lot to show, like the Google Play Music All Access service, which for only $9.99 per month ($7.99 if you join before June 21st) will allow you to not only store your library and have it available on all your devices, but also to create radio stations from a song or group of songs, for unlimited song playing. They also announced a "vanilla" version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that contains stock Android OS and is promised to get OS updates as soon as they're out. This for only $649 for an unlocked phone.
Google has also improved Chrome with support for an optimized picture and video compression format, and speed improvements. And what better way to make developers use Chrome than by giving each of us attending I/O a shiny new Chromebook Pixel. In fact, I am writing this blog post on the Pixel right now, and I will write a separate post with my review.
Google+ was also improved with multicolumn layouts, photo manipulation and a new and improved hangouts app that will replace Google Talk and it will allow people to send text and video chats to friends and groups.
In the search arena we now have an improved search that uses your voice and contextual information to determine exactly what are you looking for. The demo was very good, but I wonder how it will behave in real life, but this is Google and I'm sure it will be improved over time. Google Maps also got a big update with contextual info from the user and friends that will bring better related searches for nearby places.
Larry Page came onstage to talk about how Technology companies need to focus less on fighting each other and more on inovating. He was speaking strange, and it looks like it's due to a vocal cord paralysis that has been affecting him for a while. But he took the stage and answered questions from the audience.
After the keynote came the sessions, lunch, more sessions, and then the after hours party, which had Billy Idol performing.
I have enjoyed the conference so far, but I was expecting more Android related news, new hardware or at least an update to the OS. We'll see what happens the rest of the days.