Google I/O: Music, movies and more Android

Google kicks off its annual developer's conference with announcements around movies, music and momentum for the future.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

There was plenty of excitement in San Francisco's Moscone Center as a giant on-screen clock counted down the final seconds until execs would take the stage to kick off the annual developers conference, called I/O.

Not a bad reception,. considering expectations for big headline announcements is small.

Google - like most companies that take to a keynote stage - kicked off with a recap, a look back to highlight their successes, notably Android. They talked momentum with devices and apps. Nothing new. We already knew this.

And before we jumped into the widely-expected news - a music announcement - there was some announcements about Honeycomb updates. Version 3.1 is being rolled out for the Motorola Xoom tablets today - and with it comes some new developer tools and features, such as the ability to resize widgets. And the company offered a sneak peek at the next Android OS - codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich.

But this crowd was waiting to hear about the new features. The company kicked things off with news of movie rentals. The service starts off at $1.99 for a 24-hour viewing and allows users to either stream the movies or download them for playback where there's no connectivity.

The company was light on details about the catalog of movies available but played up instead how the streams would reach both mobile devices and computers.

Then, came the news about music.

Again, the company was light on details about partners who would provide the content - aka the record labels. Google told All Things D that some of the music labels "were less focused on the innovative vision that we put forward, and more interested in in an unreasonable and unsustainable set of business terms." On stage, there was no mention of it at all.

Instead, they played up the ability to store music on the cloud - up to 20,000 songs - and access those tracks from any connected device. They showed how an import of music from iTunes would include playlists, play counts and ratings. They also showed the album art in different display modes, too.

You see, if Google wants to do music right and gain some traction here, it's not about cutting deals with record labels for new music. It's about offering a good user interface and plenty of storage on the cloud. I already have a lot of music that I could move into the Google cloud. I'm not trying to build this catalog with new music. And if I am looking for new tunes, why can't I buy through another service and upload into the Google cloud? With Google's offering, that's all I can do. And that's cool with me.

Worth noting: The company used the "B" word when it discussed the music service - BETA - and hinted that it may be looking for access to your wallet soon. The service is free... as long as it's in beta.

The company spent the second half of the opening keynote talking about vision for the future, talking about how Android could eventually work hand-in-hand with other types of hardware beyond mobile phones and tablets. Onstage, the company demo'd a connection to an exercise bike, home appliances and a living room media hub (called Project Tungsten.)

That's all kind of cool stuff, though most of it is pie-in-the-sky types of things that we might or might not see in the future. (For a moment, it felt like a Microsoft CES keynote...)

Finally, the company announced a new limited edition version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab - smaller, thinner, lighter and soon to be equipped with the new version of Honeycomb. And to sweeten the pot - and likely help with the momentum that Android tablets haven't yet seen - the company said it is giving one to each person in attendance at the conference.

It's all kind of cool stuff but nothing that completely wowed (except a prototype of a product that allowed users to tap a music CD to a home device to instantly import it into a music library - for those who still buy music CDs.)

Then again, it's only Day One of Google I/O. In previous years, the real news - and bigger surprises - came from the Day Two keynote.

Stay tuned.

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