THE Google IO keynote has finally concluded after three and a half hours of broken demos, occasionally announcing exciting products, and Larry Page’s very Silicon Vally-esque motivational speech claiming “Being negative is not how we make progress” and hypocrisy.
The biggest announcement, which was leaked, is Google Play Music All Access. It is essentially a clone of Spotify. I’m sceptical, however, about how successful this will be. Priced at $9.99 a month (its launching in the U.S. first with a global roll out later this year) it is the same as Spotify which leads me to ask this question … Where is the incentive for users to switch to a service which will undoubtedly have a library far smaller than Spotify and that is platform reliant? It’s simple, there isn’t. It’s an interesting attempt but it’s probably too late to catch up to Spotify and other similar services all of which have a household presence, much larger libraries and market penetration, and the ability to move between iOS and Android.
Other efforts include Google Plus, apparently there was forty one new features most notably an update to the stream which is completely redesigned towards a card interface like Google Now, the hangouts application which takes on competitors like Apple with ‘iMessage’ and Facebook with ‘Messenger’ – which unfortunately moves away from the XMPP standard – and a cool image/video format called WebP, which uses much less bandwidth in videos and images and also supports animation and transparency.
Of course, there was many updates to Android too, further distinguishing its self from the competition by using Google’s incredible cloud services to its advantage. Contextual search looks fantastic, as does Google’s natural language search, both key features in Google Now and the shift away from the home screen. And whilst there was many other smaller updates, and ones aimed at developers such as improved analytics, the most exciting and obvious feature was notifications that are now synced across devices. Remove a notification on your phone, it does on your tablet.
Almost all of Google’s projects of various sizes were mentioned, the Nexus’ were mentioned in passing, the Pixel was given away for ‘free’, and of course there were more updates to Google search (but no mention on creating a better algorithm unfortunately), maps and various other small projects.
There was some notable exceptions, however. Google Glass had absolutely no presence on stage which contrasts with last year when there was skydiving action men all donning the latest and probably most ridiculous fad in technology today, “wearables”. In fact, the only mention of Google Glass was Larry Page telling Robert Scoble he “really didn’t appreciate the shower photo”.
But the entirety of Page’s presence on stage was strange. In what was clearly a last minute decision which didn’t really serve any purpose, clutching onto some notes he made, he spoke about how “not every new technology is a zero-sum game”, how “every story I read about Google is us verses some other company, or something else, and I really don’t find it interesting”, and most creepily of all is complaining about laws and regulations that hinder them from creating what he wants – as if he wants to take us all to Burning Man where we can all experiment with iDosing whilst simultaneously eating from a trough of magic mushrooms and making all our medical records public.
Whilst one half of Page was in one world, a world with no laws where you can try new things, BioShocks Rapture to be precise, his answers to questions and the keynote in general were in another less idyllic world rife with hypocrisy and user-extorting schemes.
The keynote was undoubtedly an attack on Apple and making it clear they are dominant in every place Apple is stumbling into. Demonstrating how their maps are far superior, and highlighting how they will continue to be, moving into search and how they are, and will continue to be, the best in the market, and then moving into Google Now and how superior it now is to Siri. Further to the hypocrisy of Page was one of his answers about Microsoft, saying “We struggle with people like Microsoft”, and complaining about Oracle and Java.
Google have put their only real rival, Apple, in a difficult position today. They have attacked Game Centre, Siri, and various other products that Apple can’t do because of their lack of infrastructure and the legacy of Steve Job’s. WWDC will have to see Apple step up several gears both on the OS front and with its cloud services to remain competitive to Google and Android.