At IO 2011 Google Paints the Android Vision

Ben Bajarin - May 11, 2011, 8:13am CDT
At IO 2011 Google Paints the Android Vision

Day one of Google IO has come to a close. After sifting through my notes and processing much of what I saw and heard, it’s clear the theme of day one was Android’s potential. All though Google did highlight some key features and made Ice Cream Sandwich official, they were vague about many of the specifics about future Android releases. What they did do however was tell a broader story about where Android can go.

Google’s emphasis from the very beginning with Android was to provide a framework for the OS and the devices then let the market dictate where it goes. The problem with that strategy was that the market needed more direction than Google originally expected. This led them to get more involved in processes and spec decisions than they had originally desired.

The last few releases and the creation of the Nexus line of products were by design created to be examples for the market. It was never about having just one great Android device on the market rather the Nexus line was to set the bar. Andy Rubin summarized this point in our Q&A when he said: “The power of Android is that it isn’t just one device.”

Instead of focusing their entire Android keynote on new features, apps, etc they spent time showing new out of the box applications for Android. Like how visual computing and motion sensing could be integrated into the software in the future. Or how by adding a USB host feature you can plug in USB accessories like game controllers. Another out of the box feature was when they showed an Android device controlling a physical labyrinth board where the gyroscope physically moved the actual board.

Even announcing the Android @Home initiative was out of the box and showed potential ways the framework can be used in home automation and maybe even healthcare or tele-health in the future. The examples they showed were less about saying people will do those things but rather to get developers thinking about the possibilities.

The point of telling this broader story rather then just focus on new features was to highlight potential and create a broader vision for Android. The more I observe how Google orients themselves in the market the more I am convinced they would prefer to not get involved in having to dictate Android’s future. They constantly talk about how its the developers and hardware makers who have an opportunity to take Android and create value.

However the reality is right now as Android is maturing it is their responsibility to get involved in setting those standards and take initiatives to support their hardware partners with Android’s market adoption. This however may not always be the case in the future and therefore what Google did by painting the broader vision was important for Android’s future.

There is no questioning Android’s momentum. Google has a vision to get Android on as many screens, and even devices without screens, as possible. Again Andy Rubin in our Q&A said, “We are going to see the next wave of Android devices flood the market and they will represent all kinds of form factors and use cases.”

That is a pretty broad statement and I think that is the point. My key takeaway and the message I think Google is sending to developers is this:

“Don’t limit Android’s potential, don’t put it in a box and define it’s borders, let it loose and let’s see where it goes.”

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