The Non-Device News from Google’s Press Event

After endless speculation, today’s press event at Google answered the burning questions about the Nexus One.  The event, though, offered more than just news about the Nexus One.  It also offered insight about Google’s role in shaping the future of Android.  With steam from the hype machine finally easing up, let’s review some of the things that are about to happen for Android.

Android version 2.1 offers some noteworthy enhancements to the user experience.

  • Updated Gallery application.  Release 2.1 brings much needed changes with finger scrolling, various options for picture sorting, and pleasant navigation animation throughout.
  • Voice-to-text entry in any text box.  While 3rd party applications and input providers allow for this on today’s devices, having built-in integration should make the process easier to use.  (The demonstration quality was impressive, but with data always going back to Google for processing we can hope that improvements are constantly being made).
  • Google Earth. More impressive to some than others, but it’s finally coming to Android.  This should be a Market application, but there was no specific mention as to whether or not it would require a specific version of the OS.

Cooperation with Google, manufacturers, and carriers
Some of the only new information to come from the press event had to do with carriers and handset manufacturers.  It was no secret that the Nexus One was made by HTC, had T-Mobile 3G built-in, and would have an offer for a T-Mobile subsidized price.  What was completely missed by virtually everyone (is there a link anywhere to the contrary?) was the plan to bring the Nexus One to Verizon and Vodafone in the spring of this year.

During the Q&A session, Mario Queiroz mentioned that there were ongoing discussions with a number of carriers.  He even went so far as to suggest that one of the largest obstacles was system integration with those carriers in order to make the purchase and activation process as seamless to the customer as possible.

Google also made a point about manufacturers.  A number of times we heard about the partnership and strong relationship between Google and handset makers – especially HTC and Motorola. Though this was expected to be a Nexus One event, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha joined the panel during the Q&A session – seated right beside HTC CEO Peter Chou.

At the risk of hopeful speculation, it seems reasonable that Google is working to expand the device “store” by offering more than a single device on a couple of carriers.

Multitouch and app storage
One of the best questions from the Q&A session received one of the most aggravating answers.  It seems Google still refuses to address the question of multitouch support for US-based devices.  When pressed for clarification about why Google applications (Maps, Gallery, Browser) had multitouch capabilities in overseas equivalents to US devices (Hero, Droid / Milestone), Andy Rubin could only dodge the purpose for the question, pushing it off as a software question for device manufacturers or developers. Regardless of the importance of multitouch in the broad scheme, Google needs to move beyond it by openly addressing it. Build it in or don’t and say why you didn’t.  The coy act is grating and starting to feel a lot like Apple’s take on cut / copy / paste for the iPhone.  Google: please do not wait so long that the press applauds for multitouch just because you finally came to your senses.

Another question addressed a longtime frustration with Android: why is the application installation space so limited?  The answer was most encouraging: the issue is one of piracy, but there will soon be an upgrade for installing applications to an SD card.  Again, no specific information on when or which OS versions would be supported, but this is likely the first time that the issue has been so clearly addressed – especially with such a positive result.

The event as a whole might have felt anticlimactic after weeks of anticipation, fizzling out with details of the “superphone” we already knew about and not really shaking up the mobile ecosystem after all.  If it were seen as an Android event, however, the news is promising.

  • guest

    who created all the hype? the bloggers pulling random features from their booties… btw why was the fact that google voice was on the handset overlooked?

    • BigHeat

      Hype was abundant and hardly just from "bloggers pulling random features." Even the WSJ was taken in.

      GoogleVoice for Android is far from news. If it were demoed at in iPhone event then it would be news. 🙂

  • Steve

    The bloggers always create the hype. Who do you think creates it for any new iPhone iteration?

    I don't think the fact that Google voice was on the phone was overlooked, in my opinion it's just not a big deal. I have Google Voice on my Hero, it integrates just like it does on any android phone.

  • The only time Google Voice becomes the killer app is when it can be used in the legacy myFaves TMO plan, VZ F&F/MyCircle, etc. That way all GV traffic can be funneled through two of those slots and be used for unlimited calling on a limited voice plan.

  • Google can't be straight with us on multitouch because Apple has a patent on it.

  • BigHeat

    I too think that is the main reason, but I they could still address the subject head on … and I don't even care much one way or the other. (I sometimes laugh watching people try to multitouch on small devices – pinch zooming is a specially inelegant process on small screens.)

    Apple's patents are likely unenforceable (way too much prior art) and need to be challenged – the Pre has multitouch, HP desktops have multitouch, countless other devices have multitouch – but Apple has yet to attack anyone.

    There is also some (wildly speculative) thought that an "agreement" of sorts was worked out between Apple and Google while Eric Schmidt was on the Apple board with Android in development.

    I think Google is playing it safe, but I think it's an item that they could put behind them with a clear statement – even if they change their mind later.

  • chewtoy

    First rule of Google press conferences: You do not talk about multitouch.

    Second rule of Google press conferences: You do not talk about multitouch.


    This is really getting frustrating. One of the big sites should start a petition to get Google to come clean with a real reason and an open, honest conversation with the public about what's going on there. Then get sites like engadget, cnet, nytimes, etc, to pick up the story and publicize it. This is getting ridiculous.

  • chewtoy

    By the way, your code for detecting valid email addresses is broken.

    It thinks an address of this format is invalid — but it is perfectly valid. Check the rfc:

    [email protected]

  • great thing.. nice work..

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