Wed Jun 25, 2014
Today’s Google I/O conference keynote felt messy. Google everywhere - on your phone, on your computer, on your TV, in your car, on your body, at your work, even in developing countries teeming with future customers frothing at the bit to get a smartphone. Google wants to aggressively expand and rapid expansion always brings messiness. The keynote definitely reflected this: there were protesters heckling the presenters. Demo fails. Kinetic art. It was a carnival.
But within the midst of this chaos was an earnest attempt to marshal a myriad of hardware platforms under a unified design umbrella dubbed “Material Design”. To me this design manifesto was the best part of the keynote - and the sneak peek at Android 5 of course, the mysterious “L” release.
Everything else seemed a counter-attack on their competitors, most notably their biggest competitor: Apple. Heck, it was the rumour - yes, the rumour - of a smartwatch from Apple that spurned Google Wear into full production along with hardware partners LG and Motorola who will try to nab early smartwatch adopters before Apple does. Also, Google is covering bases that Apple has already reached - Android Auto vs. Apple CarPlay, Android TV vs. Apple TV, and so on. The counterpoints started to get a bit rote after a while as even minor niche areas were addressed - a slides app to go head-to-head with Keynote, phone notifications that appear on chromebooks (a la OS X Yosemite), etc.
But then again, Google’s messiness is also what makes it so eclectic and interesting. From smart thermostats, to WiFi-emitting balloons, to terrifying robotic dogs, the stabs in the dark are bound to eventually puncture through our techno-jaded ethos at some point to create something as astonishing and groundbreaking as it is genuinely useful. Google has the power to shape our future, through brute force if necessary. Let’s hope that they never abuse that power and do something insane like unleashing Skynet upon us.