Google gives away 4,000 phones, promotes Android and HTML 5

In an "Oprah moment" at this morning's Google I/O 2009 opening keynote, Google gave away a new, unlocked HTC Magic to all 4,000 attendees. This phone was previously unavailable in the US.
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor

In an "Oprah moment" at this morning's Google I/O 2009 opening keynote, Google gave away a new, unlocked HTC Magic to all 4,000 attendees. This phone was previously unavailable in the US. As you might expect, this move drew the biggest applause by far from the audience, but actually very little of the keynote was devoted to Android.

[ Read: All posts on Google I/O 2009 ]

Most of the time was spent on Google's long term goal of improving the Internet experience. And Google realizes it can't do this alone. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, "Innovation occurs elsewhere," unconsciously echoing the words of Sun's Jonathan Schwartz in 2006. There's always a programmer, a brilliant person, he said, that's somewhere other than where you are. They just need a platform so they can realize their idea or vision.

Android looks like it's going to have a very strong year, according to Schmidt. "We have many hardware partners that are coming along that might look like phones but they do more than phones."

During the keynote Google demonstrated a number of HTML 5 technologies that will help revolutionize the web as we know it. They include:

  • Canvas - 2d and 3d drawing under JavaScript control
  • Video - Also under JavaScript control
  • Geolocation - Web page can ask for your current location
  • App cache and Database - Allows apps to work even if you lose your network connection
  • Workers - Perform background computation while the user interface is unaffected

"5 > 2" declared a slide from Vic Gundotra, VP of Engineering at Google, referring to new capabilities of HTML 5 that let us move beyond Web 2.0 apps. Take Ajax for example, the capabilities had lain dormant in the browsers for about 5 years before GMail popularized them. With HTML5 Google wants developers to do it differently, and they're working hard with partners like Mozilla to make that happen.

Jay Sullivan, Vice President of Mozilla made an appearance to show his support for HTML 5. FireFox 3.5 will include many HTML 5 features that Google is promoting today, plus a new JavaScript engine that runs 3x faster than the one in FF 3.0.

Also on stage with Google was Michael Abbot, Senior VP at Palm. Palm's new operating system, webOS, is entirely based on HTML and JavaScript. Abbot showed a demo of the Calendar application of webOS which was implemented using HTML5's canvas tag.

In addition to improving the overall web experience through its standards efforts, Google is also looking for new ways to making Google products more usable to web developers. To that end, Google announced Google Web Elements. DeWitt Clinton, Tech Lead, Google, demonstrated using cut and paste to add search, news, and conversation threads to an existing web site.

While the Android phone giveaway stole the show, the main message of the keynote was Google's continuing efforts to raise the bar on Web applications. Far from pursing a proprietary approach, Google is partnering with sometimes-competitors like Mozilla and Opera to keep the web from fragmenting. The "elephant in the room", of course, is Microsoft.

Despite the obligatory Internet Explorer jokes, it's clear that Google is hopeful that Microsoft will implement the same standards that all the open source browsers are promoting. The first test of that will be IE's implementation of the canvas tag, which has been promised but not yet delivered.

Editorial standards