Google I/O 2011 Recap: Angry Birds for the Web, Chromebooks, Music Beta and More

By David King
  From the reveal of Music Beta to the official introduction of the world's first commercial Chromebooks and Chrome OS, the 2011 edition of Google I/O packed plenty of punch. If you missed even a second of the continuous coverage, no worries! The best of the best is recapped below. I/O was as amazing as an Apple Keynote, and speaking of Apple, the game really is all to play for now.

Android 3.1
Google has just announced Android 3.1, and it's already started rolling out to Verizon Xoom 3G customers. It brings with it a range of improvements and refinements including:

  • Resiseable widgets.
  • A new host mode that will let you import photos to your tablet directly from your digital camera.
  • The ability to take advantage of a "ridiculous" number of USB devices, even including Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 controllers. 
  • Includes Google's new Movies app that will let you rent thousands of movies from the Android market, a new Books app, a new video editing app dubbed Movie Studio, and updated versions of most of Google's main apps, including a "faster" web browser with a new Quick Controls menu.
  • And to top things off, the OS will be hitting Google TV sometime "this summer" as well. 
Unfortunately, there's still no firm word on when it will hit non-Xoom 3G tablets, although Google did mention that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 that it's giving away to everyone at I/O will be getting the update in the "next couple of weeks."

Android Market Launches Movie Rentals
Google just announced movie rentals in the Android Market at its I/O conference. You can now rent movies on the Android Market from your phone, tablet or PC with a single click. "Pinning" mirrors the experience with apps and books, you can select it on your PC and download to the device in the background for offline viewing. Movies are live in the market right now, support on all Android 2.2 or higher devices is expected "in a couple of weeks" and tablets will get support bundled with their upgrade to Android 3.1. On the PC, it ties back to the recently expanded YouTube rental service with the same restrictions (30 days to watch, 24 hour window once you start watching) and pricing, making that per-movie VOD price a bit easier to swallow with its cross-platform support and there were a few HD selections for $4.99.

Google Music Beta
Called "Music Beta by Google" at this point. There's a simple presentation with artists, albums, and easy playlist creation. You can manually create them, or there's a feature called "Instant Mix" that will make you a playlist based on any single song. It'll automagically pick 25 different tracks to build a "truly ingenious mix." You know, kind of like another, similarly intelligent service. All of this syncs to the cloud, which means no wires needed to download anything.
But, more importantly, songs can be cached locally. You can pick any song, album, or playlist to download onto storage, at an unknown quality. It's the same pinning idea that's in the new movies feature.  The service is launching in beta, allowing 20,000 songs, and it'll be free "at least while it's in beta." Also, the updated music app is available now, which will work with any music on your phone and any phone running Android 2.2 or above.

Chromebooks and Chrome OS
Google showed off a new 11.6-inch Chromebook from Acer at Google I/O promising an eight second boot time with an Intel Atom N570 CPU, 16GB SDD, instant-on, two USB ports, webcam, HDMI and 6.5 hour battery life. It's cheaper than the Samsung Series 5 also announced, starting at $349 with optional world-mode 3G available for more cash and will be available for preorder on the same day - June 15th from Amazon and Best Buy!

Introducing Chromebooks and Chrome OS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daPt_drDGWM&NR=1
The Future for Education and Business: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LUOZ8Lk__4

Chromebox, Desktop Version of Chrome OS
In among all the hard news of the second Google I/O keynote, we were treated to a tease of a Google Chrome OS nettop, which sounded like it was called a Chromebox. There's no doubt about the fact that Google is planning a desktop version of its web-centric OS, which together with that Samsung-branded computer above is going to be showing up at some point in our collective future. Light on details, but rich on intrigue, just the way I like it.

Google Reaches 100 millionth Android Activation
36 OEMs, 215 carriers, 450,000 Android developers all over the world, Google wants to say "thank you!" Android has recently crossed its 100 millionth activation milestone, and is also growing at its fastest pace yet: 400,000 devices activated each and every day. There are now 200,000 Android applications in the Market, which have accumulated a total of 4.5 billion installs, at a rate which Google actually says is accelerating. These figures have all been cited as a way to illustrate Google's mobile momentum, which is evidently not even thinking about slowing down.

Google Makes Chrome Web Store Available Worldwide, Adds in-app Purchases
Google announced that it's making the Chrome Web Store available to the "entire userbase of Chrome" - all 160 million, and in 41 different languages no less, although those outside the current markets will apparently only have access to free apps initially. What's more, it's also now added in-app purchases to the mix, which it notes developers can add to their apps with "literally one line of code" and it's announced that it plans to "keep it simple" by simply charging developers a flat five percent fee instead of opting for some of the more complicated fee structures out there. As for how the Web Store has been doing so far, Google revealed that there has been 17 million app installs to date, although it provided few details beyond that.

Angry Birds on the Web!
Yet another platform has been conquered by the affronted fowl: the web! Angry Birds' web client is built in WebGL, so presumably browsers other than Google's Chrome should be able to run it as well, and even if you can't handle WebGL, there's Canvas support too. 60fps are promised on most modern PCs, and I've spotted SD and HD labels, suggesting there'll be a choice of quality to match your computer's performance. Offline gaming will also be available.

Chrome will get some exclusive content, such as "Chrome bombs" and other cutesy bits. Rovio just noted it's "really, really happy about the 5 percent," referring to Google's pricing model of charging a flat fee of 5 percent to developers on in-app purchases in the Chrome Web Store. Yes, the Mighty Eagle will be a purchasable option for the impatient among you.

And that, as they say, is a wrap.