Liz Gannes

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Google Execs on Unification, Openness and the Droid-ification of Everything

After Google demoed all sorts of futuristic applications and Android devices on the first day of Google I/O, the company’s top mobile and development executives accepted questions from the press.

10:29 am: Andy Rubin kicks off. First question is about Honeycomb schedule. Rubin says shortcut was to hold back open-sourcing of Honeycomb for phones, then re-merge tablet and phone and television source code with Ice Cream Sandwich.

Q: Any plans to sell music? What will the labels say?
A by Jamie Rosenberg, director of digital content for Android: It’s in our interest and has been in our plans to work with the music industry, but the terms were “unreasonable and unsustainable.” What we launched today is a completely legal service, and stores a user’s personal collection in the cloud.

A lot of these questions so far are just asking for reiterations of what was said on stage…

Rubin says updates are a logistical problem, so it’s pretty complex from a global perspective. Hiroshi Lockheimer is leading this effort to make updates more standardized.

Q: What are the roles of these different devices in business?
A: Tablets are business devices. Adding calendar features in 3.1.

Q: How can you incentivize handset makers to upgrade devices?
A by Lockheimer: We want to establish some form of expectation for both users and developers. The health of the ecosystem makes everyone successful.
A by Rubin: Consumers want upgrades, so our interests are aligned.

Q: What’s different about Ice Cream Sandwich?
A: Primary job is to make experience run on all devices, but a lot of new features too that you saw a hint of in the keynote.

Q: More detail on Android updating alliance?
A by Rubin: Just getting everyone to the table is the first step. We’ll figure out the rest. I want to hit the ground running rather than add more parties before getting things done.

Q: Will current hardware support Ice Cream Sandwich?
A by Lockheimer: That’s the intent.

Q: Will there be an Ice Cream Sandwich phone?
A by Rubin: The Nexus has always been the thing we use to set the bar. Releases are usually on holidays and in the summertime, so we’ll make an announcement.

Q: Why is music U.S.-only?
A by Rubin: International launches are complicated. It’s being rolled out on an invite-only basis, but our goal is to make it as broad as possible.

Q: Will Google TV be available outside the U.S.?
A: It’s in the roadmap.

For more info on what’s in Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, here’s a post from AllThingsD’s Ina Fried.

Q: Is Android@Home just a fun project, or are you really serious about it? Microsoft has been talking about the digital home for two decades and nothing’s happened.
A by Joe Britt: We don’t think we’re necessarily going to come up with the killer application, but we think it enables a crazy number of new opportunities. We realize that in order to do that it has to be extremely low-cost. We’ll provide some boilerplate software for things like lightbulbs to get people started.
A by Rubin: There’s a little bit of a chicken or egg. If an OEM were to do this it would likely be proprietary. It’s a lot of fun, but we’re also taking it seriously.

Q: Does Android@Home require new technology and what is it?
A: Yes it does, but it’s low-cost, low-bandwidth and should be available by the end of this year.

Q: Not that many tablet-specific apps for Android today, and it sounds like we have to wait for Ice Cream Sandwich to build for both phones and tablets.
A by Lockheimer: Not true. The music app we showed today runs on both.
A by Barra: Check out the Google I/O app. It has beautiful features that are only for tablet, but it’s one app for both.

Q: What about the implications of mobile bandwidth charges for content?
A by Rubin: We’re in a cycle right now where the operators have congested networks, but we’ll go through a step function. We’re right at the tipping point, but LTE, 4G, 5G, 6G are coming.

Q: Why not Zigbee for Android@Home?
A by Britt: Not saying what we’re using yet.

Q: What about energy monitoring implications for Android@Home?
A by Britt: That’s extremely interesting, but there needs to be very fine monitoring and understanding what devices in the home are contributing.

Q: Is Android movie service different than YouTube?
A by Rosenberg: It’s the same content library. Rentals in either system are viewable across the services. If you rent movie on Android, you can watch on YouTube, and vice versa.

Question about image of Android eating an Apple that Vic Gundotra used to reference last year’s I/O. All six execs pass a mic down to Gundotra, who’s sitting on the floor, and he says it’s part of the battle for hearts and minds of developers and was just fun.

Rubin: [Android] isn’t something that you should think of as a Google product. This is a community thing. Google likes to shine a light on opportunity, like Android@Home. Android devices are the center of gravity, but there are a bunch of things that are going to orbit that. (Whoa, lotta metaphors!)

11:02 am: Google has a YouTube video up outlining its music service.

Britt mentions that someone built a hydroponic grow system using Android, saying “We never would have thought of it.” His coworkers chide him.

Q: Why is Motorola getting preferential treatment?
A by Rubin: We have this concept of a lead device. But you’re going to see this whole wave of other machines coming to market.

Q: What’s Google’s interest in gaming and gaming hardware?
A by Britt: Yes, we’re working with hardware manufacturers to build gaming peripherals, but I’m not sure which have been announced.
A by Rubin: Looking at the Sony Ericsson Play, there’s definitely demand for gaming on Android, and tablets bring that to the next level.

Rubin: Everything should be Droid-ified.

Q: Will Google build apps for users to access their media in the cloud on other platforms?
A by Barra: Yes, we will build for whatever users have in their hands.
A by Rosenberg: The Web is a critically important platform. Developing client apps is a matter of resources. Because we have Android in our backyard, that’s where we focus our innovation.
A by Rubin: Movies work great in the browser, so that’s pretty good coverage.

Q: What about videos calls/chat?
A by Rubin: We’re conscious of the issues of different platforms, but we have nothing to announce.

Q: Fragmentation issues?
A by Rubin: Openness doesn’t mean commoditizing platforms. If users like a particular Android experience, they should be able to have it. Fragmentation is more related to legacy and the false expectation that you can run a 3.0 app on a 1.0 system.

Q: Security?
A by Rubin: 99 percent of malware is screened by Android Market, the rest is taken out quickly by humans–the last incident only took an hour. It’s always a cat and mouse game. We’re looking at ways to store things more securely on CPU, etc, but will reveal these plans at a later time.

Q: Define “openness.”
A by Rubin: Thank you for asking. Open source is different than a community-driven project. Everything that we do ends up in an open source repository. We’re building a platform, we’re not building an app. When we add new APIs, typically in my opinion community processes don’t work because you need to know when you’re done. If it’s a community process someone could take an early version before locked down, and those devices would be incompatible. So as the shepherds of this ecosystem, we’re going to make sure the same APIs are on all devices that adopt that platform.