Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Of Mountains and Molehills: The Honeycomb Event

Sometimes, opportunity knocks silently on your door. Other times, you have to cunningly trap it, pursue it, corner and trap it, and then exploit it almost like a hunter chasing wounded prey. But once in a rare while, it drives its karma over your dogma and you end up being repaid for the loss a thousand fold, against your wildest hopes. This last situation is very much how I found myself invited to the Android Honeycomb event held at Google tomorrow, February 2nd, 2011.

Now, people all over ask me for predictions and comments about a lot of things I really don't know. In all fairness, being as close as I am to Google has its advantages, in that I hear and see things that other people don't have access to under normal circumstances, but this in and of itself doesn't mean that I am a bounty hunter on an unrelenting quest for Google's most prized and safeguarded secrets. No, the truth is, I'm just an Android enthusiast who happens to have a few friends who work down at the Googleplex (and they tell me nothing), but the simple fact that I know people is enough to make everybody jealous and/or suspicious of things.

The truth is far different than everybody seems to want to perceive it, however. I shall list a number of examples, common perceptions, and then the reality, and follow it up with my guess about tomorrow's Honeycomb event that I'll be attending, and upon my return, I'm going to see how accurate I was in my guessing. Through this process, I hope to establish that no, I am not some corporate espionage specialist, nor do I have an empirical fuckton of inside information (maybe just a metric one), and it's all the result of me being in the right place at the right time.

A while ago, I made a few twitter posts, and forum posts about the look of Gingerbread, dating back to October. There was even a photo posted, that was blurry as Hades. I hereby take full credit for both. So where did they come from? Very easy.

* Matias Duarte

I don't personally know Matias, but we all know his work: WebOS. I don't personally claim to have ever used a WebOS device, but I've seen screen shots of what it looks like. It's dark, it's warm black tones, and it's accented. Then, there was the article about Gingerbread's style showing up in Google Maps if you changed your build.prop file. Of course that isn't all, though. Google matias duarte art and you'll come across a LOT of the work Matias has done. All of it is different, of course, but there are a number of tones and styles that are consistent, all leading me to the same conclusion: Gingerbread would share many of those tones and styles. And, my logic was right.

* Public Transportation

I live in San Mateo. I work in Redwood City. Google is located in Mountain View. All in all, I spend 95% of my time with in 25 miles of their corporate headquarters, and the thousands of employees that work there, too. How many of them do I see when off of work? How many do I see at the grocery store, or at the movies, or driving (or riding, in one those cars that drives itself) down the street? The answer: quite often. Many movie theaters I've seen Google employees playing with their phones in, and due to Google's wonderful policy on openness, not all of those phones are running released software. As for the picture of Gingerbread I released, that was taken on the CalTrain. I ride 4 different trains a day to get to/from work (with all the transfers) and once in a while, I find myself sitting behind somebody with a Holiday Nexus One, or some other Google device that I recognize from all the rumors and other leaks, courtesy of websites like Android & Me and Phandroid. So when I see these as I walk through the train, naturally I'm going to sit down behind the person in question and peak over their shoulder. And of course, like any other nosey snoop, I am never with out at least one camera, and usually am packing 3 or 4 (including cell phones). So when the opportunity presents itself, of course I'm going to take it. This gives me inside access to products that Google hasn't announced, and was one of the big reasons I knew how crashy the early builds of Gingerbread were. A little resourcefulness, a little common sense, and a lot of putting myself in the right place at the right time has landed me details like this.

* Knowing Who to Listen To

Lastly, and most importantly, you need to know who to listen to, and you need to pay attention to what they say. Following the public figureheads of Android (JBQ, San Mehat, Dan Morril, Andy Reubin, etc) are all very well and fine and good, but I also look at the less public people, also. Those whose roles are more public on forums or, through code commits, can see what projects they're working on. So when one of them is posting patches to SDK tools for a week, and then twitters that "It's almost over!", you can really put 2 and 2 together and come out with 4: another part (or the whole) of the SDK is done. Thus, a release might be imminent. By piecing little shreds together, you can start to see the bigger puzzle picture. By reading between the lines of everybody involved in the project, Google really paints a forest of information that, well, only somebody with the resources of Google at their disposal could catalog. But, oh yea, Google offers all their services to everybody, doesn't it. Maybe there really is such a thing as being "too open" after all.

So now, some predictions about what tomorrow is all about, how I came to those conclusions, and why I stand behind them. Tomorrow of course, we'll see if I'm right, or if I'm wrong.

* Google Music

Why do I think Google Music is going to be shown tomorrow? Well, there's many reasons. I'll try to cover them all, but the evidence really is overwhelming.

First, Google Music is supported in the leaked Music app from Honeycomb that has been floating around XDA for a while. It adds "Google Music" to your syncable items under your Google account. So this means that Google Music is part of Honeycomb at least, in functionality. Legal issues aside, we know the product is coming, and it would be perfect if it could be introduced in Android 3.0. More importantly, however, this is necessary to be announced soon. I'll explain why, later.

Second, Google Music is not limited to mobile devices. It will be another Google service, usable from your computer, your phone, probably even Google TV and Chrome OS at some level, at some point. Look at Android and its offerings, closely. Are there any Google *services* that are exclusive to the platform? The apps, in a way, yes, but that's about it, and that's not really true when you consider the only reason they're exclusive to Android is because nobody's cared enough to port Dalvik to a desktop system - it's technically 100% possible, after all. So what unique services of Google's does Android provide? None. Google Reader, Google Books, Google Mail, Google Maps, Google Voice, etc, all take advantage of the certain properties of the phone platform, but none of them are exclusive to it. So why would Google Music be any different? Because it's going to be another Google service, and not just an Android application, it really has no place at MWC. That would be like going to the Westminster Dog shows, and trying to sell trees. Dogs like to pee on trees and fetch sticks that trees drop, they're connected, right? Nice try, but no. So since MWC isn't the place to announce such things, why do it there?

Third, Google isn't big on holding press events with out releasing something new. We all saw a fairly in-depth announcement of Honeycomb on the Xoom at CES. So why would they bring out all the press to just do a hands on? No, this is going to be big. And a hands-on of an unreleased but announced product really isn't big. Google Music announcement, however, would be.

Fourth, there are a lot of rumors going around about MWC too. Lets cut through the normal tripe and look at one company in particular, however: Samsung. Now, Samsung is going to be doing something big at MWC. They're going into it with an aura of confidence and are exuding panache like Apple fanboys exude body odor. Why is this? Rumors are abounding about the Galaxy 2 phones, the Galaxy 2 Tab, and the Galaxy Player. Oh, what's that, the Galaxy Player? It's Samsung's rival to the iPod. And, what better product to take advantage of a Google Music service than, of course, an Android based iPod-like device? And since Samsung might be announcing something around it at MWC, wouldn't Google Music need to be announced first? Yea...

* Web Market

Also, there's the web market, which could have support for buying music and video through it also. All this is something we've known was coming since Google IO last year, but it hasn't been released yet. Is it really so strange that Google would integrate the two? After all, it's almost time for IO registration again this year. Products can and usually do change significantly in the amount of time that has passed since we saw Vic's presentation on the two subjects. Since Andy Rubin took over the Google Music project also, it would make perfect sense to marry the web app store with the music store, and make a central, unified directory for everything that Google sells, music, movies (if they ever do that), and apps. After all, I doubt highly that they're going to give the press a look, you can play with this for 15 minutes each demo of something already announced with out revealing anything new. It would be wasting their time, and when they usually do things like that, they at least tell you in advance it's just a hands on demo of <produce name>.

There's my thoughts on why we'll see Google Music and the web app store/market show up tomorrow. Then, we'll see if I'm wrong, or if I'm right. But either way, there's my logic.