Why, Google? Why?

(Part 1 here)

If you were attending Google I/O today, you’d be justified to have an overwhelming “Groundhog Day”-level feeling of deja vu. For the second day in a row, attendees were herded into a conference room for a keynote. Again, products were announced. Again, people jumped out of airplanes, did bicycle stunts and rappelled down the side of buildings. You wouldn’t call Google a one trick pony. Yet, they went at great lengths to perform the same trick twice – literally and figuratively. Google managed to steal its own thunder by turning what was supposed to be a magical moment into a “not this shit again”  moment.

Still, there were a number of interesting announcements yesterday and today, and here are some quick notes on some of the things Google had to show:

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 was a bold move by Google, and at a $200 price it should sell like hotcakes. But just like the Kindle Fire, that price is probably subsidized, and heavily so, considering the hardware specs.

This is where things get a little weird. You can see why Amazon subsidizes the Fire – after all it’s something you use to read books,  books you buy at Amazon. What is the Nexus 7 use case that would generate enough revenue for Google to justify this subsidy? The average service revenue per user of Android devices today is quite dismal.  Do they expect it to be different on the Nexus 7 or is it just desperation?

Bear in mind Google is fighting two separate entities here: Apple, who basically owns the tablet market, and Amazon, who forked Android and told Google to suck it by removing every trace of Google services from the device. It will be interesting to see how both of them react. Apple has been rumored to be working on a 7 inch tablet for ages (with the caveat that Apple rumors are mostly worthless) and Amazon will have to respond aggressively, given that the combination of hardware specs / price point of the Nexus 7 have made the Kindle Fire obsolete.

Nexus Q

This correspondent is completely baffled by this product. It’s like Apple TV but costs three times the price. Why? Hard to say, but the fact that the thing is made in the US of A probably doesn’t help.

It’s a product nobody asked for, at a price nobody will pay. And it’s a real, live reminder of why all your shit is manufactured in Asia.


Chromebooks will now be available on Best Buy stores, probably so people can actually play with them before deciding not to buy them. This is not gratuitous cynicism – these things cost between $400-500. That’s the price of a low end Windows laptop. Why would anyone buy a Chromebook when they can buy a Windows laptop, install Chrome in it and have exactly the same experience. it’s hard to understand what’s Google end game with ChromeOS. If they want to experiment with other form factors, doesn’t it make more sense to do it by extending Android?

Chrome for iOS

This was actually a nice surprise. A great browser, with many user experience improvements over Safari, and nice synchronization features with Chrome in your other devices through your Google account.

However, Apple has made two decisions that prevent it (or any third party browser, for that matter) from ever dethroning Mobile Safari: You can’t set it as the default browser in iOS, and Safari’s super-optimized Nitro JavaScript engine is only available for the browser itself. Any apps that use UIWebView (that is, render web content by creating an instance of Safari) don’t have access to Nitro, but rather to the older, slower engine. This issue affects Chrome for iOS and would affect any third-party browser or any hybrid web application that uses the web as UI rendering technology but is installed like a native application.

Apple’s stance on web vs. native was discussed on a recent post and a question was asked: “would [Apple’s support to the open web] continue if the open web starts chipping away at AppStore revenues?” The restrictive APIs and functionality available to third-party browsers or web apps should give the reader a hint to the answer.


That’s the list of stuff this correspondent believes is worth of commenting. There are other things to digest and that may be commented on later. With two keynotes running more than two hours long each, there were many other announcements, and you can find several round ups on the web going through each of them in excruciating detail. All in all, another exciting couple of days in tech, and a nice way to wrap three weeks with major announcements from some of key players in the industry – Apple, Microsoft and Google. After this overdose, it will probably be a slow news summer.