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Just because we’re Mac|Life, that doesn’t mean we can’t tune in to how the other half lives. Case in point: Google’s annual I/O conference, which kicked off Tuesday morning with goodies for Android lovers in a rousing keynote address.
Google kicked off their fourth annual I/O conference for developers on Tuesday morning in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, with Vic Gundotra rallying the crowd with such nuggets as a sketch of the company’s loveable Android mascot snacking on a little tiny red apple. (Snacking on Apple… get it?)
The show continued with Android product management director Huge Barra showing the original T-Mobile G1, then flash-forwarding to today’s announcement, where the platform has 100 million activation across 36 OEMs, 215 carriers and 450,000 developers. The company increased their previous 100,000 activations per day to 300,000 per day as of December, 2010, which now stands at a whopping 400,000 activations per day.
After announcing 200,000 available apps and 4.5 billion app installs, Google announced the release of Android 3.1, an update to Honeycomb hitting Verizon Xoom customers today. The update brings customizations to widgets, promising developers that existing widgets can be upgraded “with just a few lines of XML.” Android 3.1 also introduces support for more USB devices, including game controllers. Google is also promising Android 3.1 for Google TV this summer, including the Android Market.
So what about the non-tablet, non-TV Android users? The company also introduced a preview of the next major OS, dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich,” in keeping with the search giant’s propensity for naming major updates after snack treats. Expected later this year, Ice Cream Sandwich promises to unify all Android devices -- regardless of whether you have a tablet, a Google TV or a smartphone.
“One OS everywhere,” the company’s slides revealed prominently as they demoed Ice Cream Sandwich features such as a holographic user interface, richer widgets and motion tracking with OpenGL.
Moving on to cloud-based services, Google announced that, starting today, a new Movie Rentals app will allow you to get instant streaming from the Android Market, with prices starting at $1.99 and HD selections for $4.99. Rentals are good for 30 days, but as usual, once you start watching, you’ll only have 24 hours to complete viewing. The company claims “thousands” of movies available now, complete with a website for those without an Android device to get a taste of the experience.
As rumored on Monday, Google then moved on to the official unveiling of Music Beta by Google, the company’s new cloud-based service to rival the Cloud Player which Amazon introduced in March. Available for both Mac and PC as well as through a web browser, Music allows you to upload all of your personal music collection and get a cloud-based iTunes-style experience, complete with ratings, play counts, playlists and more.
Once your music is uploaded to the service, it’s available from any Android device with an internet connection -- simply sign in with your Google account and you’re good to go, no syncing required. The company is promising the service will be “free while in beta,” and you can add up to 20,000 songs, which certainly trumps the meager 5GB offered by Amazon. Music launches today in an invitation-only beta for U.S. users, but you can head to the Music website to get in line for an invitation right now.
Google is also working to establish new guidelines with its partner carriers, laying out timelines for when devices on their networks will be updated and even how long a particular device will be supported. The list of device manufacturers and carriers on board with the plan is quite extensive, including the usual suspects such as HTC, LG, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless.
Perhaps sensing a missed opportunity, Google also announced Android Open Accessory today, giving a demo of an Android handset interconnected with a treadmill using the CardioQuest app, but the search giant’s ambitions appear to go much further than the accessories we’ve seen for Apple’s “Made for iPod” program. The company is offering what they call an “ADK” to entice hardware developers into the fold.
Finally, Google wound down their whirlwind of announcements with Android@Home, a new effort to make your Android device the “center” of your life -- including protocols for controlling any and all electrical devices in your home, which includes dishwashers, thermostats, floor lamps and much more.
Google’s I/O conference runs through Wednesday, May 11, with all attendees being gifted the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Limited Edition tablet, featuring a 1GHz dual-core CPU, 32GB of storage, 1GB RAM and Android 3.0, upgradable to 3.1 within the next two weeks. The rest of us will have to wait until then to scoop up the latest and greatest Android tablet -- or wait to see what Apple will introduce at WWDC, which is less than a month away.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter