You know what my biggest question was going in to this year's Google I/O? What the heck does "I/O" stand for? It appears that no one knows for certain, but there are reports that it means "Innovation in the Open". Others thought it meant "Input/Output" (receiving developer input and then creating products as the output). Regardless, we always having something to look forward to at these annual conferences and this year was no different. Google announced a couple of new versions of their OS as well as some new features to look forward to so I decided to discuss them in this week's PhoneDog Live. Android not your thing? We also touched on some new info we've heard about the AT&T/T-Mobile deal and what the Senate thinks about it. Check out the recap below.
First, we were given a look at the newest update to Honeycomb, the tablet version of Android. There are some exciting new features coming to Honeycomb 3.1 including an improved task switcher, resizable widgets, USB hosting, smoother screen transitions, and more customization settings. Visually, it's not a huge difference, but it's the little things that count. The ability to resize the widgets alone makes we want a Honeycomb tablet. I initially wasn't so hot on Honeycomb's looks because I didn't like the way the widgets were designed. I always said 'Having a scrollable Gmail widget is nice, but it's kind of small and square-looking.' There's so much screen real estate with a 10-inch display and these widgets are so tiny. I would need thirty widgets to fill up one screen. Next thing I know, here comes Google with resizable widgets and boom, problem solved. USB hosting means that you can plug in mice, keyboards, and even game controllers. That opens up several doors to what manufacturers can do with their Honeycomb tablet. Along with that, the overall performance enhancements and transitions improvements are always welcome.
Next came Ice Cream Sandwich, which was my favorite part of the conference. I don't think I initially understood what Google plans on doing with this next version of Android until I went back and rewatched the keynote. Their slogan for Ice Cream Sandwich is "One OS Everywhere". Google plans to make this a unifying platform that works everywhere - "on phones, on tablets, and everything in between." Google realizes that Android is available on several different devices with tons of different form factors. So, in order to "insulate developers from the differences between all of those devices" they'll be adding "new API's to the framework to help scale all [the developer's] UI across all these different form factors." The apps will "be able to reconfigure themselves to optimize for the available space." This is pretty exciting. Ice Cream Sandwich won't be a phone-only or tablet-only OS, but a universal OS that runs everywhere, allowing developers to create one app that works on different devices with different screen sizes. Visually, it will look similar to the current Honeycomb iteration. It will feature the holographic UI, the new launcher, the new multitasking UI, and richer widgets.
In a way, this solves one of Android's biggest problems, fragmentation. But Google announced something else that will help control this problem even more. Google has partnered with several carriers and manufacturers to ensure that new phones will receive updates for at least 18 months after their release. Additionally, from now on Google will dictate guidelines on how long it takes for a device to be updated. Awesome.
In other news, it seems that AT&T and T-Mobile are not having as good of a week as Google is having. It turns out that several members of the U.S. Senate who are reviewing the acquisition deal are not so hot on approving it. AT&T denied allegations that the deal would allow it to cut thousands of jobs and instead said that it would allow the company to higher additional workers because of the fact that it would give AT&T the opportunity to roll out its 4G LTE network, thus improving their service to their customers. Senator Herb Kohl didn't waste any time beating around the bush and refuted these statements, saying “This is a business deal to make your company more successful and more profitable. We should discuss it in that context, not that this is in the national interest.” Tough words. Referring to AT&T's roll out of its 4G network, Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a consumer rights group, said that AT&T already has plenty of spectrum and simply isn't making wise use of it, for one by operating three generations of wireless technologies. Sohn says, “AT&T is planning to spend $39 billion on this merger, money that could instead be spent investing in its network and bringing better service to more Americans.”
Thus far, I've been on the fence about this whole thing. On the one hand, I understand that AT&T's network is thoroughly clogged (I think we can all agree on that) and that gaining additional spectrum seems to be the only solution. On the other hand, I also understand that carriers (all carriers, not just AT&T) need to recognize that instead of simply acquiring more spectrum, they should use that money to invest in technologies that will help them to make wiser use of the spectrum they already have. In the past, the government has simply auctioned off sections of spectrum when they felt it was needed, but that won't always be an option. At some point, someone will have to force carriers to be more efficient with their spectrum and this is the government's chance to do that and set some sort of precedence.
If the government does decide that it's a bad idea, AT&T will have some heavy losses to endure. We already knew that if the deal didn't go through that AT&T would owe Deutsche Telekom $3 billion, but now we're hearing that this number could go up to $6 billion once all of the other parts of that fail-safe plan are carried out. I bet someone high up in AT&T's corporate offices could go for a relaxing massage right about now.
If you'd like to watch the next episode of PhoneDog Live, we'll be broadcasting every Friday at 5 p.m. from our Ustream channel. You can watch it directly from Ustream or from our Facebook page. This week's show is available to watch on our YouTube channel.