Google Developer Day 2008

Tags: Google

Google Developer Day (London) was held at Wembley Stadium. A huge venue for what, to my surprise, turned out to be a limited crowd. In fact when I arrived the stadium area seemed almost empty. The startup was also a bit awkward as the whole venue was half empty and the Google folks were still preparing their sessions.

Well, the keynote got under way, and no there were no Mac Book Airs being pulled out of envelopes or the like. They did show a working demo of an Android device, which looked appealing, but no major breakthroughs. The rest of the keynote was more about showing the different Google APIs. While I am always a big fan of Google, there was nothing here to get me overly enthusiastic.

The first session I went to see was actually by accident, as I had wandered off before the keynote and saw the preparations for the presentation of the new Geolocation API based on Google Gears. A lot of interesting stuff, but little support for mobile browsers that are not top of the line. Sadly I wasn't able to stay for the real session and ask questions as I wanted to view the Maps API Codelab.

The codelab was more a session for people who wanted to get started with the Maps API. We were taken through some basic coding tasks, setting up a map and setting up mapplets. Maybe I had misunderstood the point of the session but this session was at the very bottom level of what could be expected from developers. I had hoped there would have been some tasks with more advanced or at least newer features. Mapplets are pretty cool and I should write a control that outputs mapplet xml.

After the codelab was the first break and I started to find out where the others were - the Android presentation. I guess that is the big pull here.

After the break I headed to the Google Gears session, which turned out to be popular also. I first saw Google Gears at the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference in London last year and was amazed. In the past years the Gears team has been hard at work. Now Gears is not just about offline storage. The Gears team has been creating APIs to allow file system access (multiselect and files as BLOBs). This was demoed with a multi file upload that supported network disconnects. Cool! For me the Geolocation API is a cool extension, and I have been using it for some time and it rocks. It does require a JS enabled browser, so non-cutting edge phones will need an alternative. Gears is a cool API that adds a lot of punch to your browser, and is going to be a strong competition for Silverlight.

After lunch I had a look at the presentation on new developments in the Maps API. I am happy to say that there were no surprises and that most of the things had already found their way into the Google Maps .NET Control. The Google Earth plug-in open up a whole new dimension to map apps - apart from being 3D :-) Having programmatic access to Google Earth allows you to make truly impressive visual representations of GEO data. There was also a small presentation about creating custom maps, but that has been in the control for ages, so snap up Google Engineers. By the way if you want to create custom maps, have a look at tilesmachine.com - maps your way.

Sadly my day ended there as work finally caught up with me. All in all it was a good day with some solid presentations. Gears was the most impressive, both for me and for everyone I've talked to here.

Even though more people turned up during the day, the venue seemed half empty. I can't imagine it was for lack of interest. Maybe hosting it at Wembley was just too a wrong choice.

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