Already last year it became clear that Google’s I/O conference has taken pole position, leaving Apple behind when it comes to show, highly anticipated announcements and overall coolness. And although the 2013 conference was just as big, to some people it seemed less overwhelming. No skydivers landing on the roof of Moscone, no new Android version, no new hardware.
Of course there were announcements that would have thrilled virtually any attendee. Everybody got a ChromeBook Pixel handed out. The new version of Google Maps contained many real, useful improvements. Google Hangouts looks like a powerful messaging and collaboration tool. And ‘Google Play Music All Access’ may take a bit longer to pronounce than ‘Spotify’, it sure seems to be a worthy, smart opponent.
All very nice. Still, to me the biggest revelation of I/O 2013 was the renewed focus on developers. After all, I/O is a developers conference and Google clearly and ostensibly went back to the basics. If you watch the 3-hour + keynote (it’s a stretch, admitted, but worth your precious time), it somehow makes you feel like wanting to code something, anything right afterwards.
It’s cool to be a developer. No company emphasizes that message more than Google.
Much applauded were new, powerful development tools like Android Studio, helping developers to build responsive apps that morph themselves fluently to any device of any size. But what arguably invoked most of the enthusiasm was plain and simple a collection of new APIs: access to compelling features that developers can immediately start using to create entirely new apps or augment their existing apps with. There were new game services, that let users invite other friends or connect with other challengers (the live demo went wrong, only appropriate for a developers conference) and there were also standard services to save a game on one device and continue it on any other device later on. There were also excellent new location-based APIs, helping the developers to create apps that are much more context-sensitive and adapt themselves to the personal profile of its users. Likewise, ‘activity recognition’ APIs can determine what activity a user is undertaking, for example driving a car, riding a bike or walking.
With already 48 billion app downloads from the Play Store, it might only be just the beginning. The secret for Google is in enabling its developers community, rather than build all the apps themselves. New APIs brings new services that could support new app functions that nobody has thought of before. A Catalogue of APIs thus can be a Catalogue of Inspiration.
A clear message to central IT departments as well. In the era of mobile, social and cloud apps you may no longer want to develop all enterprise apps yourselves. Instead, you might consider to create a ‘hub’ that bridges the stable, predictable world of enterprise ‘train and car’ applications with that of agile, highly flexible ‘car and scooter’ apps at the edge of business. That hub will consist of tools and platforms, but will also feature a catalogue of APIs: powerful services that gives business units, subsidiaries and partners access to corporate data and functions so that they can quickly and safely build their own apps. That way, you get more apps, at a higher pace, closer to the business. API building tools, such as Apigee, 3Scale, Layer7 and Mashery will help you instantiate that vision.
The art of the API is the art of inspiration. Google showed how it’s done, last week in San Francisco.