This was the 10th anniversary of I/O and Google had put lot of effort to make it a big one by inviting more than 7000+ tech enthusiasts.
Just before the event there were lot of rumors going around in the media about what to expect from this year’s event and I think they delivered on that front. Not only did they live upto the expectations but they did come with some surprises, Allo (a context aware messaging app) and Duo(A lightweight video calling app). These releases definitely confirm one thing, that the hangout is not serving the purpose that Google had imagined it would when they integrated SMS, chats, audio and video calls. The adoption rate of these new apps might define the pathway for Hangout as well.
On the Andorid front Google had already surprised everyone by releasing the next version of OS two months ahead of I/O so people we mostly aware what to expect in the latest version. Although there were few things going on under the hood. The most important of those was the new JIT(Just in time) compiler for Android. This will make the device run faster and consume less battery and apps will take 50% less storage space. In short the new compiler will execute the code in the run time (just like Dalvik) but with the battery and memory optimization (which ART provides).
Another under the hood feature was the availability of Vulcon graphics API which will give more control to developers over GPU. Vulkan is a low-overhead, cross-platform API for high-performance, 3D graphics. It provides tools for creating high-quality, real-time graphics in application. This move might come up because of the new Google’s VR platform called Daydream.
The Daydream announcement was on expected lines. Google has already released the SDK and design guidelines for building apps for VR and Andorid N is natively going to support such apps. Just going by the announcement the main differentiating factor with the other VRs headset is going to be remote which is going to come with the headset. So users can have the whole VR experience without moving their head. New Daydream compatible VR handsets are expected to be released very soon.
One of the biggest and most useful announcements for me was Android instant apps. It lets users experience beautiful and immersive apps, with material design and smooth animations, without installing them on your device. The best part is that it has backward compatibility till devices running Android 4.1. For the older apps there’s a bit of extra work involved to make it work and upcoming apps can configure this setting while moving forward.
Android studio also got a major update (preview version) with constraint layout but, it’s still in beta phase so expect it not to work so well initially. In my opinion this will take some time to work properly before devs can actually start designing with this layout. But, it’s definitely something to watch in coming months/year.
Progressive web was another hot topic for many talks this year. It’s generally bringing some of the native apps experience in mobile web, using the various web components. For web components they pushed towards Polymer and to support their claims they gave some examples of companies which are using them and how they have benefitted in the last 12 months. The interesting point was that Google is moving away from Angular and currently they are using polymer on more than 60% of their web apps.
Firebase was also one of the products that Google advertised lot during the conference. Firebase was initially a dynamic database when Google acquired it and now they have added a bunch of additional features which can lure any developer to integrate in the apps. Apart from dynamic database it has notifications, dynamic links, crash reporting and analytics built in. The SDKs are easy to integrate with web, Android and iOS and most features you get out of box. They advocated a lot on using Firebase analytics for mobile over Google analytics as it’s specifically designed and written for mobile platform.
The biggest let down was they didn’t thought of accommodating so many people during sessions so if you really want to be in a session you have to stand in queue for almost an hour in sun and even then you might miss out. Out of all the sessions I could only get into eight sessions in three days and out of which few were just fillers.
There was some fun stuff also going around the amphitheatre which included playing around with Project tango hardware, Android auto demo, Android experiments and self driving car.