Last week, we rounded up Google features we wanted to see rolled out in Australia. Today's announcements at Google I/O add a whole new set of options to that list.
Picture by henofthewoods
The major announcements at Google I/O (which I had hoped to attend in person before other factors intervened) were Google Music, the new feature list for Android 3.1 (code-named Ice Cream Sandwich), a promise that phones would receive at least 18 months of Android updates, an API for home automation and the ability to rent movies from the Android Market. Let's dive into each of those from an Australian perspective.
Music By Google
Right now, Google's music service is invitation-only, and those invitations are only being sent out to customers in the US. That's annoying, sure, but there's no particular reason to assume that the service will remain a purely American option long-term. Since users have to upload their own music to Google's cloud storage, licensing issues shouldn't get in the way (as they have for other services such as Google TV). I'd imagine the main reason Google is restricting the rollout is so that it can scale up the service over time, rather than having several million people simultaneously trying to upload their Metallica collection.
History suggests that the first phone to get this following its Q4 2011 release will be a Nexus-branded device, which Vodafone will eventually sell in Australia some months after its launch. By the time that happens, keen early adopters will have either imported their own devices or installed a custom ROM version.
Regular phone updates
This is an appealing-sounding commitment, but I'm sceptical as to how well it will work in practice. Carrier and manufacturer customisations still represent a major delaying factor in getting newer versions of Android out there, although the number of really old 1.5 and 1.6 devices on sale in Australia is thankfully shrinking. For all that, I still suspect that rooting your phone and then flashing your own ROM will remain the speediest route to up-to-date Android goodness.
The home automation code
Other than mysteriously blocking local developers from selling on the Android Market until recently, Google rarely imposes restrictions on its developer code. As such, I can't foresee major delays with this stuff.
Frankly, I'll be amazed if we ever see this option: local licensing deals and bandwidth caps will be too big a blockage.