Highlights of Google's developer keynote from I/O 2017
At its heart, Google is an ad company, but in serving up such services to us, the end-user (or product), its success lies in not only categorizing information and developing artificial intelligence that benefits everyone, but in enabling the developers that provide ways to maintain a vibrant market of applications used by individuals and businesses alike. Google further benefits because it provides an endless variety of how data is gathered and behavior trends are formed. That developers are able to monetize on top of that is what attracts them by the thousands to attend Google I/O every year.
Following the Keynote address Wednesday morning, Google set aside a dedicated presentation in the Shoreline Amphitheatre for developers – the people that enable virtually every feature and app we use on Android and iOS devices daily. Developers get excited over things that are alien to mere mortals like us, but nothing generated more excitement at I/O than the announcement of adding support Kotlin as a first-class programming language to Android.
Android app development has always been rooted in Java as the default language. Kotlin is a new language created by JetBrains, who also created the JetBrains IDE (integrated development environment) for Android Studio, the official developer tool for all things Android. Kotlin has roots with Java. It is an object oriented programming language and judging by the waves of applause that were generated when Google announced support, it obviously has a lot of nice features (that are not necessarily easily understandable), so we will take it all as very good news.
The big news with Android Instant Apps is that the SDK (software developer kit) is now available to everyone. Thanks to robust feedback from a few dozen selected development partners, Google has observed Instant App development to taking only a few weeks in some cases. That means end-users should expect to see Android Instant Apps become more pervasive in the Android ecosystem over the next couple of months. Adoption should then grow even more widely as the enhanced features available on Android O make their debut.
Google Assistant and Actions on Google
Google Assistant last year added iron into the glove of Google's AI. Now, Google is encouraging developers to begin building new features that enable actions in Google, from reserving seats at an event, to ordering food for delivery. On top of that, the SDK can now help facilitate payments and transactions without the end-user having to provide that information to multiple third-parties. In addition to all the ways this helps businesses engage customers for goods and services, it will also play a role in the Internet of Things as Google Assistant begins to operate in machines and appliances. On top of that, this expanded role for Google Assistant will also enable developers increase exposure of their apps, after all, what good is a service if you cannot engage your customers with you app (instant or otherwise)? Skynet is right around the corner.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The big message with Google's AI and machine learning projects was the idea of "democratizing" AI, thus building tools that help developers and researchers not only build their own models for problem solving, but leverage the experience of other models and the data sets they discover. This is a big deal. It means that developers work on ever-increasingly-complex ideas, Google's cloud machine learning, and TPU (Tensor Processing Unit) stacks can work ever-more efficiently, processing hundreds of teraflops of data.
While we will not realize this on an end user level in the immediate sense, where this will make a huge difference is in the arena of research and development, particularly in academic institutions, as well as the medical field. Google showcased this type of progress during the main keynote in how effective the ability to diagnose cancer before the cancer became prevalent. All of this is still "early days" (a common term remarked more than once during I/O), but CEO Sundar Pichai was not kidding when he said it felt like Google was on the "verge of solving" some really big problems.
Development for the Web and Firebase
Not surprisingly, there are over 2 billion instances of Chrome in use at any given time on over 5 billion active devices. Google has expanded a number of features developers can use to measure their platform's performance. For Chrome, that takes shape as an extension and command line tool. It is what Google refers to as Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Firebase is a performance monitoring tool that provides real-time information in diagnostics as well as analysis to help a developer grow their presence.
For all the news that came out of Google I/O 2017, no doubt the announced support for Kotlin was the "big deal." Some asked if this meant the other languages used by developers would fall by the wayside. The answer was a resounding "no" from Google. So, if you are a developer, and you missed all the news and details, check out Google Developers and find wisdom, then build something.