June 01, 2007, 8:46 AM — Google Inc. hosted events for software developers in 10 cities around the world on Thursday, promoting the use of its tools and services to build Web-based applications.
The events, which began in Sydney and wrapped up later in San Jose, Calif., were expected to attract around 5,000 developers, with many others tuning in online. The events provide further evidence of how far Google has come from being an Internet search company to offering software and services that compete increasingly with those of Microsoft Corp.
In a series of presentations, engineers showed how developers can use APIs (application programming interfaces) for Google Maps, Google Checkout and other services to add functionality to Web sites or build new, mash-up applications. The company also unveiled new software, including a browser plug-in called Google Gears, for viewing Web applications offline, and the Google Mashup Editor, an "experimental tool" for creating user interfaces with AJAX.
Gregory Renard, CTO of IT consulting company Wygwam, traveled from Brussels for the event near Bastille in Paris. He came to research whether he should start using Google's APIs for his work, which involves building proof-of-concept applications for businesses and government agencies.
In a sense he is on the front line of Google's rivalry with Microsoft. Renard is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional, one of a group of hand-picked developers chosen for their deep knowledge of Microsoft products. Today he is undecided as to whether he prefers the Google tools to Microsoft's competing Windows Live APIs for Web-based applications.
Google's roots are on the Web but Microsoft has much more experience building tools for developers, he said. "Google is a search company that wants to be a software company, and Microsoft is a software company that wants to be a search company," Renard said.
In any case, he's glad that Google has emerged as a Microsoft competitor because it should ensure more innovation and lower prices, he said. One question he hoped to get answered Thursday was whether Google's APIs will remain free to use, which is important if he plans to use them for his clients.
Yvon Cognard was there to learn more about the Google Maps API, which his company uses at its Web site Trivop.com, which bills itself as "the first video guide for hotels." He has already been using it for some time and called it "a very good tool," although Google could do better with its documentation, he said.