Look Back at Google I/O

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Google I/O was held at the Moscone West conference centre in San Francisco June 27 through June 29, and VendAsta’s CTO – Jason Collins – was there for his fifth year in a row. Here’s his behind-the-scenes scoop of the entire experience.


Google I/O is Google’s primary developer conference and this is the conference’s fifth year. It was larger than ever, covering three days instead of the normal two and hosting 5,500 attendees. The conference has become known for giving away free hardware, so it is a very popular conference destination. This year’s conference was apparently sold out in 15 seconds! Because I’ve been to all five years, I get a pre-registration called Google I/ON. This program also gives me reserved seating at the front of the keynote sessions, which was greatly appreciated because, due to some really bad crowd control decisions, I was fifteen minutes late for the first day keynote despite being at the conference centre an hour and a half before.

As in previous years, the conference was broken out into areas: keynote room, breakout rooms, lunch room, and developer sandbox. The developer sandbox was further broken down by Google product theme: Android (all of the third-floor common area), Plus, Cloud Platform, Maps, Commerce, and Chrome. Each area had a large “genius bar” set up which was always staffed with Googlers ready to answer questions and usually give you some swag. The Cloud Platform area, which was primarily App Engine, was giving away hand-crafted and hand-wrapped chocolate bars – wrapped and signed by the App Engine team themselves. Also in each area was a small number of selected companies that were demoing tools or interesting products that use or were built on Google products. VendAsta has participated in the developer sandbox in the past in the App Engine track in 2010.

As usual, there was a tremendous amount of content to consume with eight separate tracks in the breakout rooms. A lot of the content was not deep architectural content, but more “here’s how you can use our products.” However, the much more important part of attending was the ability to corner the speakers after and get much more gory details about topics, as well as just generally making connections with the Google staff that work on products that have great impact to our business.

Google has also become known for the “After Hours” party which is a room full of “geek heaven.” All sorts of interactive technology displays are available, along with tonnes of food and an open bar. The musical entertainment is always interesting as well. In previous years, the After Hours party has been played by Flight of the Conchords and Jane’s Addiction. This year, they did it again with Train (Drops of Jupiter) opening for the quintessential DJ Paul Oakenfold. Oakenfold in particular played a great show.

It is interesting to see Google venture into the consumer electronics space; in a couple of cases, I felt I was at an Apple keynote. Google rolled out a couple of consumer products and proudly displayed the $X99 price beside them. The Nexus Q in particular is directly targetted at Apple TV as everyone continues to race for grabbing the lucrative interactive television market. Google was also proudly displaying the Google Glass initiative which is a fully self-contained wearable computer in a pair of glasses (well, really just the frame). These were often seen on people just walking around the conference, and yes, were quite nerdy looking. To introduce the new model, Sergey Brin came on stage at the opening keynote and orchestrated an incredible stunt. Four skydivers wearing Google Glass jumped out of a blimp overhead and parachuted on to the roof of the Moscone – all the while streaming live, first-person video and audio into the keynote session. They then handed the glasses to some cyclists who performed a number of arial stunts to get the glasses over a number of on-roof obstacles. The glasses were then handed to a stuntman who rappelled down the side of the Moncone. Finally, the glasses were handed to another cyclist who rode them on to the main stage. Remember, all of these transitions were being live streamed from the Google Glass prototype. Needless to say the crowd erupted and it was very cool to be a part of it. US-based conference attendees were able to sign up for early access to Google Glass; the price was $1,500 and they were not going to be available until next year. Despite the price and the timeline, the sign-up desk was always deeply queued with people ready to get their hands on the device that Sergey Brin warned would be “very bleeding edge” (read: probably very buggy).

Google I/O