Google I/O 2011: day 1

This has been quite a long day... it started very soon--at 5 AM, since we're still jet-lagged (and I actually had gone to sleep at 19h yesterday). Still, I got to the Moscone West Center at almost 9. Don't ask me how I managed to lose all that time in between :-) There wasn't hardly any queue for getting the badge, against what I expected. You didn't even need to print the confirmation email. It was enough with scanning the barcode in your phone screen (maybe in a next year it could be solve with NFC, getting entirely rid of the scanner ;-)). The badge was printed and voila!

You had then two options: getting something for breakfast or going to grab some space for the keynote. I chose the first option because the queues had been at all the cafes I had gone past when walking to the Center, so I was dying for some coffee. And that's the only thing that was left at that time anyway. Hungry geeks had devoured everything that was on offer.

So coffee on hand I went up, and up, to the third level where the huge keynote hall was. The setup was certainly impressive! And there wasn't any place left already, unless you wanted to sit in between a mass of people, which I didn't. So I sat on a side, on the floor. Since there is a carpet, and many additional screens showing the current speaker, it was OK. It was quite a relaxed atmosphere, a bit hippie even, on that area. Meanwhile, the people in the massive area of seating area were taking pictures like craaazy. I don't think they managed to tweet many of them, anyway, either using their 3G/4G networks or wifi networks. There were just too freaking many devices at the same time in the same place--I tried plotting a graphic of the networks with Wifi analyzer and it simply couldn't draw them all. It hang. So no wonder the wifi network didn't work...

There was a huge clock on the screen depicting the time left until the keynote started, a sort of digital clock made up of balls which bounced. It only managed to get the people counting down aloud with the last 9 seconds, which was a bit disappointing--I was expecting something more hyped and very, very American, but I got the dose later.

And then the music kind of stopped, and there was a boom! and a voice introduced Vic Gundotra to the stage, who talked about how cool everything had been since last year. Then he introduced another guy in charge of Android (I didn't know it but it seems this keynote was mostly Android centered) and then they showed an animation depicting a cute robot jumping mountains with numbers of activations on top, until it reached the 10th million. And then the delirious craziness started, with people cheering and clapping.

It kept that way with all the subsequent announcements. They actually were cool, as in Android devices becoming full USB hosts in 3.1, which means you can connect anything USB directly to an Android device. They showed this with... an XBOX controller. I somehow was picturing an Arduino connected to the phone... when then showed an Arduino based Android board! They also introduced another concept called Android @ Home (which reminded me of Seti @ Home), much on the spirit of the old Java idea of running Java in all sorts of devices, but without mentioning it of course. It was about domotics, special bulbs that could communicate with Android devices, sensors, etc, so you could program things like those and "build your own real farm game, where if you didn't play the game, the plants actually died". There were some other human-machine interaction demos such as a huge ball-in-the-hole board whose servos were controlled with a tablet connected to the Arduino based board mentioned before. They said in the future it would work with Bluetooth too, "and it would be all open source".

Later the enthusiasm started to fade out. They showed an application for renting movies--kind of exciting, with its sync capabilities and ability to locally cache the movie so that you could watch it when you're offline "in a plane", plus the comfort of not having to use a cable or having the movie tied to any specific device. Once you rent a movie, it's available in all your devices (including tablets or phones).

So far so good... and then they went on to announce the "Music Beta" program, which was probably a great MEH moment. After having shown the Movies which were quite spectacular in a way, they started with a kind of ugly app which... ran on Windows and Mac? Silence... and the guy doing the presentation stops like expecting huge claps, but they don't come. He goes on, again stopping at certain moments when he expects the people to go crazy and over the top, but it just doesn't work. I think people are just fed up of music/movies services. We want something different, and that's why the initial presentations were well received-they were things we could tinker with, unlike these that only turn us into consumers :-P

Finally the craziness really ensued at the end, when the giveaway moment arrived: "And there's this Samsung tablet, which no one else has access to... with one exception..." And he left an strategic silence after that, to allow for the YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH YEEEEEEEEES WOOOOOOOOOO to take over. Some people even stood up and left at that very moment, even if the speaker was telling them there was no need to rush!

I waited, intrigued to see how people would act. Would they ran away in order to be first? Oh yes they did, but orderly. No one got hurt in the exit, no avalanches. An agglomeration of people in the doors--yes. Had this been held in Japan, I'm sure there would have been an orderly queue going around the hall ^^

I went to the room 11, the largest of all and mostly monopolised with Android sessions. I think I've read somewhere it's got room for 1000 people. It was already packed full for the Honeycomb higlights session with Romain Guy and Chet Haase, so I just stayed on a side (again) since I was interested in the topic. This time I didn't sit on the floor but stood, until someone left a free chair and I sat on it. Which was cool since I was also interested in the Pro Tips session by Reto Meier which followed (video), so I would just stay there afterwards. The Honeycomb session (video) was a good introduction to the new features, specially since I hadn't had time to check them out yet. Nothing that you couldn't learn by reading the tutorials, though, but it is nice to put a face to the people answering questions on Stack Overflow :-)

And the Pro Tips session had some very interesting stuff--juicy bits that I'll apply for sure and some good ideas, specially in regards to the way to run closed betas, with A/B testing, etc, which I hadn't thought of (yet). Apparently Reto was also auto-tweeting his session with a software he had been writing these days, which was kind of funny too. Being on the bleeding edge, he made the presentation running out of a tablet, which has its risks--it hung when showing a video, but he said it had only happened once before, and never on the rehearsals. It didn't happen again once he rebooted the device, though (phew!).

It was now lunch time. And the mass of people moved downstairs to the ground floor. It was somehow like a scene from zombies movie, with all the geeks going down the escalators, eyes aimed at one goal only--either the tablet-giveaway desk or the lunch area. Most of them went to the lunch which was divided in two zones, the "Hot dogs" and the "Salads". Since I'm already scared of the sizes of servings and portions here, opted for the salads area, which had some funny options but my favourite one was the "Mediterranean marinated tofu". Which had as much of Mediterranean as I have of American (i.e. nothing!) Other than having strange and bizarre names which didn't correspond to the reality of things, the food was tasty and there was plenty of it, except of the desserts which were like macaroons and there was none left when I finished my comparatively small portion of salad, but I had a coconut ice cream which wasn't bad.

There weren't any thematic tables this year, unlike what mrdoob had described me about last year, so I just chose one at random. I probably chose a wrong one, since there was hardly any socialising going on, but that was OK--I was hungry and didn't feel like talking too much anyway!

After that I attempted to get my tablet (see, I didn't rush) but the girl at the gear counter told me someone had already picked mine (who?! with my ID?!) so I should contact registration services. Time for the next session was close so I thought I would contact them later, and went to the session which was the Android fireside chat, where some Android developers would answer questions either sent to them online or from the public in the room. It was a pity that some questions couldn't be answered either because of not being "authorised" to answer them, not having authority to do so, or just because the person who could answer that wasn't there. Android being such a huge project has lots of separation in the roles and people are very specialised.

And I closed the sessions with Android@Google which was a bit disappointing, since I expected to hear more of Guido and less of the other guy (sorry Wesley Chun, I know you'll understand it). It had a funny point, when Wesley showed how he scripted PowerPoint with Tcl/Tk in order to build his slides instead of using PowerPoint directly. But why do that when you could just write HTML or uhm... write a converter from his own markup-sort of language for slides to Open Office slides format? well he surely has his reasons for doing that, but that Tcl/Tk solution seemed overkill to me, albeit surely funny :-P

When that finished I went upstairs again for the Android team "Office hours", which consisted in this: the Android developers would be in the "office" area and you could just show up and ask them questions. Again, this proved a bit if a problem if the question you asked couldn't be answered because the person who knew about that particular topic wasn't there at that moment--which happened to me! But fortunately I had other questions so I had the chance to personally speak to Chet Haase, Romain Guy, Ficus Kirkpatrick (who's the tech lead at the Market) and even the mighty Tim Bray--poster of pretty much all the posts in the Android Developers blog! I joked with him about this, and he told me that's because he's the one who revises the posts, gets the developers to write, and all that. Overall, they are very nice people and even though the have you considered allowing developers to reply to comments in the market? question must have been asked to him something like 1023109381023981203 times only this afternoon, Ficus still answered quite patiently, so that's really a feat by itself (I don't think I would have been so polite once being asked something for the third or fourth time).

Later I spent some time chatting with the guys from Larva Labs, who not only are very nice people too but also co-developed the Androidify application which can provide for some funny moments. And then I went back downstairs to see what was wrong with the mysterious tablet... only to be told something very Spanish: "Vuelva usted mañana". Let's see what happens tomorrow ;-)

There was a party titled "Infinite play" or something like that. It was held on the main hall (where the keynote had been), and they had removed all the chairs and placed lots of gadgets and stuff instead. The big screen was occupied displaying visuals that looked quite similar to iq's works, which is pretty understandable since the collective doing them was sexyvisuals, to whom he belongs, and there was someone live-coding them which I bet was him. I would have liked to check that out by myself and wave hi to Íñigo, but the extremely paranoical security guys wouldn't allow me to even have a look from far away. Mental, I tell you! And I don't know why they hid their vj's???! Anyway, after I had checked all the stands and saw the crazy dancing Android (yes, there was another one of those here--did you even doubt it? ;-)), I ate a couple of cookies glaced with the Google TV and YouTube logo respectively (it's weird to say I ate a Google TV and YouTube) and went out of the hall. It was getting quite crowded, my backpack was heavy and I was tired and wanted to go back to some quietness at the hotel before sunset and the strange people began to wander in the streets.

Still I had ingested so much caffeine during the afternoon that I couldn't sleep so I decided to write this instead :-D

Conclusion of the day: It's pretty obvious that the biggest selling point for Google (at least in this conference) is Android. It got the biggest room, the most cheers and drew the most interest of people exhibiting and talking about it. Next to it is HTML5, WebGL and etc. The other technologies and stuff--they are boring already.

Looking forward to tomorrow \o/