At Google I/O, developer services hogged the spotlight

Further opening the company's services to developers was a focus at the show

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  Internet

Forget Glass, self-driving cars or a smartwatch. Developers, not physical consumer products, were Google's darlings at the company's annual I/O conference this week.

Google brands I/O as a conference for developers, and this year, with a range of new tools unveiled to attract more outside developers -- and boost the revenue from their services -- the company sought to deliver the goods to I/O's intended audience.

"Giving back to the developer community was a big theme," said Andrew Levy, CEO at Crittercism, an app performance management company, who attended the conference.

It was a stark contrast to last year's show, which saw a group of skydivers wearing Glass, the company's closely watched augmented reality system, land on top of San Francisco's Moscone convention center during a lively keynote address delivered by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

This year, the company talked about, well, APIs (application programming interfaces). Integrated programming languages. App activity analysis tools. Usage metrics. Revenue graphs.

"All these things matter to developers, but they're not particularly sexy," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.

Sexy or not, Google is right to be focusing on developer tools if it's serious about its forays beyond search, such as maps, gaming, social networking, mobile payments, and now streaming music.

Instead of the entertainment surrounding Glass at last year's show, I/O 2013 "was about getting down to business," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Google's business is a lot different from, say, a consumer electronics company such as Apple. "For Apple to have a show and not have a product would be a big deal," Milanesi said. "But Google has so many different things, and right now they need to prove that their ecosystem is profitable."

"That's what the show was about," she said.

That ecosystem is closely tied to Google's Android mobile operating system, launched in 2008, which now has 900 million users, Android and Chrome vice president Sundar Pichai reported at the outset of I/O's four-hour opening keynote on Wednesday.

Google has big ambitions with Android. "There are over 7 billion people in the world. We have a long way to go," Pichai said.

More than 30 sessions that were focused on Android took place during the three-day show.

One new Android service launched at the show was Android Studio, an IDE (integrated development environment) designed to simplify the creation of Android-based apps.

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