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Google I/O: Larry Page's advice to engineers

Posted: 17 May 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Android  Chrome  music streaming  Maps  Google+ 

Google made a slew of announcements at the keynote at its annual developer conference, Google I/O. Unlike past years, the keynotes announced no new Android or Chrome OS devices or hardware plans.

The announcements include a new voice search capability, a music streaming service and upgrades of Maps and Google+, including automated online photo enhancements that compete with what digital cameras offer.

Google chief executive Larry Page closed out the session with a short talk and Q&A, giving an upbeat engineer’s perspective on the state of high tech in general and Google in particular.

“We share a deep sense of optimism about the potential for technology to improve people’s lives,” said Page, before an estimated crowd of 5,500. “We haven’t seen this rate of change in computing probably since the birth of personal computing,” he said.

Claiming pride in being a “nerdy curmudgeon,” Page told of his father driving the family across the country to see a robotics conference and arguing to get the young Larry into it. “We need more kids falling in love with math and science and people graduating with science and engineering degrees and working on technical problems,” he said.

Responding to audience questions Page said:

Young engineers should focus on first principles. “I encourage you to avoid incremental thinking and have a really deep understanding of what you are doing.”

Most of Google’s out-of-the box initiatives have paid dividends such as a self-driving car effort which contributed ideas and staff to Google Maps. “The amount we spend winds up being small checks.”

Microsoft is not letting Google fully interoperate with its platforms. “I am sad the Web is not advancing as fast as it could be; we have struggled with Microsoft.”

Google Health “didn’t make much progress—primarily all the issues were regulatory. We will see amazing things in health care but I think they will be things that have a tech lever like [low cost] DNA sequencing.”

Smartphones will eventually penetrate developing markets in India and Africa and become a primary business tool. “I can get almost everything I need to run the company on my phone, but unfortunately I don’t get to do much programming.”

He attends the annual Burning Man event and sees it as a good venue for testing new products. By contrast, “I’m not sure about the value of getting on stage [at Google I/O] and saying everything is amazing. We should launch things in a humble way and see what the affect is.”

Voice search, photo enhancements
Prior to Page’s appearance, a dozen Googlers got on stage to talk about advancements in the company’s Android and Chrome platforms and the services in builds above them.

Carriers report more than 90 crore Android device activations to date. Google’s Chrome browser has 75 crore active users each month, the company said.

It was less specific about its Chrome OS environment, a thin software layer around its browser powering Web-connected notebooks. A thousand U.S. schools now use the so-called Chromebooks, and Google I/O attendees received the latest version of the Web-based notebook, the Chromebook Pixel launched in February.

Google will continue to drive both Android and Chrome and Chrome OS as separate but related platforms for the foreseeable future. It showed multiple demos of tools and services running across the environments as well as on Apple’s iOS.

The keynote news mainly focused on advances in higher-level Web services, competing with the likes of Apple and Facebook. Google’s All Access, for example, is a new streaming music service competing with Apple’s iTunes.

In a clear attack on Facebook, Google announced 41 new features to Google+ including more contextual links and a photo enhancement capability. With a single button, users can let Google make a list of improvements to pictures from removing red eye to smoothing skin tones. It also supports five effects such as creating panoramas or mini-videos out of a sequence of photos.

Taking Apple’s Siri to task, Google showed a voice search capability running on its Chrome browser. It handled a set of relatively complex natural language queries running on a mobile version of Chrome on smartphones.

Google also showed an updated interface and new features that will roll out this summer for its Maps service. It sports links to Google+ to create personalized maps.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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