June 28, 2012, 8:30 AM — Wow, does Google know how to throw a keynote, or what?
Granted we didn't get a lot of product-related surprises. We saw Android Jelly Bean, the Nexus Q media streamer and of course the Nexus 7 tablet. But just as things were starting to wind down, Sergey Brin barged on stage and started talking about Project Glass, Google's augmented reality + wearable camera project.
To show off Glass, Brin had a "special delivery" brought in by a team of skydivers who leaped out of a blimp, wearing wing-suits and Glass headsets while connected to a Google+ hangout. We got to watch the various feeds as the skydivers followed each other down, popped their chutes and landed gently on the roof of the Moscone Center where the keynote was being held. From there they handed the package off to a team of Glass-wearing cyclists who did some flips as they rode across the roof, and then to a team who rapelled down the side of the building to a balcony, and then one final hand-off to another cyclist who rode through the convention center, into the theater and up on stage to where Brin waited. It was a really fun segment, but honestly the same thing could've been accomplished by any kind of helmet mounted camera. Not to sound too much like a naysayer.
Here's video of the segment of the keynote:
Google I/O attendees can pre-order Project Glass headsets for $1500 and they'll be delivered in early 2013, so I'm guessing it'll be a few years before they're the kind of gadget the average consumer will be considering.
What we average consumers might consider is the Nexus 7 tablet. All the leaks and rumors were pretty much spot on. One last time with the specs: 7" 1280x800 IPS display, Tegra 3 quad-core processor, a 12-core GPU, 1 GB of RAM and a front-facing camera. The 8 GB model is $199 and the 16 GB is $249 and you can pre-order now for delivery in mid-July.
What was interesting was how Google pitched the tablet. It seemed pretty clear to me that they were aiming it right at the Amazon Kindle Fire, emphasizing Google Play's 'ecosystem' and using the tablet primarily as a playback device (though they did show off a couple of games). Anyway, not that I'm a hard sell, but by the time they were done with the keynote I'd pre-ordered mine.
Then there was the Nexus Q, a streaming media player in the shape of a Magic 8-Ball. While it looks kind of cool I think the $299 price is going to be a challenge, particularly given that you need an Android device to control it. Consider that an Apple TV, which does roughly the same thing as the Q (ie, gets media from the cloud to your home theater), costs $99. The Q can network with other Qs though, making it more directly a competitor to Sonos than to Apple, and compared to Sonos components $300 isn't bad. But Sonos isn't exactly a mainstream product and for most users, Q is going to be compared to Apple TV.
Now part of the reason for the high price is that the Nexus Q is manufactured in the USA. With all the attention Apple (and other companies) have been getting for using Foxconn in China, Google is trying an experiment by building the device in the US and it hopes people will be willing to pay more. The Verge has a nice post about this that's well worth a read. It'll be interesting to see if folks who have a problem with Foxconn working conditions will be willing to put their money where their mouths are.
We'll be hearing a lot more about this hardware in the coming weeks, as every I/O attendee is going home with a Galaxy Nexus smartphone, a Nexus 7 tablet and a Nexus Q. During the keynote the Q was described as "hackable" so maybe it'll become even more interesting as geeks start tinkering with it.
Did you watch the livestream of the keynote? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I really found it interesting but of course I have a pro-Android bias. I'd love to hear what others thought of it.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.