The claws were out at Google I/O today, where Google VP engineering Vic Gundotra gave his best Steve Jobs impression — by which I mean, an on-stage presentation of new launches that featured ample use of passive-aggressive jabs, delivered to a rapt and supportive audience.

The claws were out at Google I/O today, where Google VP engineering Vic Gundotra gave his best Steve Jobs impression — by which I mean, an on-stage presentation of new launches that featured ample use of passive-aggressive jabs and humor at the expense of competitors, delivered to a rapt and supportive audience.

Google VP engineering Vic Gundotra

Gundotra’s task was to present Android’s new version — 2.2 (aka Froyo) — which is a minor update in the grand scheme of things. But he made masterful use of market sentiment, at a time when the greater technology community is somewhat aghast at Apple’s efforts to cut off Adobe and Flash at the knees. Feature after feature was presented in the context of the competition — Apple’s iPhone and iPad — drawing big laughs and applause from the audience of a few thousand at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

“If you believe in openness, if you believe in choice, if you believe in innovation from everyone, then welcome to Android,” was Gundotra’s rallying cry. He explained that the mobile platform, from the time it was a top-secret product by Andy Rubin, had always been destined for this fight. “If Google does not act we face a draconian future,” Rubin apparently told Gundotra on the latter’s first day on the job.

Where Apple presents Flash as closed and buggy, and offers HTML 5 as an alternative, Google is trying to curry favor by being inclusive of all things web. The new Android will support the latest versions of Adobe’s Flash and Air. Google’s main objective is to advance the web as a platform, on PCs, on mobile and now the TV as well. And by playing nice with Adobe, Google got the beleaguered company to sign on to have Flash support Google’s new open-source video codec WebM, an alternative to Apple’s codec of choice, H.264.

Gundotra posed Google as the benevolent enabler of users and the competitive marketplace:

“It turns out that on the Internet, people use Flash. And part of being open means you are inclusive, rather than exclusive, and you are open to innovation. It’s really fun to work with other folks in the ecosystem to meet the needs of users, much nicer than just saying no.”

Gundotra walked through a new set of mobile ad formats quite similar to Apple’s coming iAd advertising platform and network, which has drawn fire for the tight grip Apple is holding over the creation and deployment of ads. Gundotra pointed out that Google has been in the advertising business for 10 years.

In introducing new Android APIs for communicating and updating the device, Gundotra poked at Apple’s equivalent, alluding that they were “designed for basic lack of functionality like lack of multitasking in the operating system.” Then Gundotra pitched Android’s new tethering and portable hotspot function as a mobile wireless solution for the iPad, receiving a big laugh.

He also demoed JavaScript performance improvements on the new Android, which is a supposed two to three times faster, by using an app to show a speed test vs. the older version of Android and the iPad. Froyo killed the other two, easily lapping the iPad’s performance within a few seconds. “I really wonder if we’ll be able to get that in the App Store,” Gundotra said of the speed test app, jabbing at Apple’s tight grip on the software available on its platform. Then came the punchline: “Oh, it’s a web app; how great is that?”

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  1. Any time you’re comparing yourself to the other guy, you’re losing. It was true when Gil Amelio was doing desperate Photoshop bake-offs with 604-based PowerPCs and it’s truer when Android managers can only discuss their product relative to somebody else’s…

    1. “Hi I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC”…

      Guess they’re all losers! ;-)

      But yeah, generally I agree.

    2. like Jobs comparing netbooks to the iPad?

  2. KevinKrewell Thursday, May 20, 2010

    When you wrote: “If Google does not act we face a draconian feature,” did you mean “future”instead of feature?

    1. Yes, good point.

  3. Why is it an “Apple complex” when Google brings freedom of choice to the Consumer?

    Using that logic, next month at WWDC when Jobs outlines even more device lock downs, more developer restrictions and fewer Consumer choices, that will be him having a “Google complex”.

    1. The actions themselves aren’t a complex. It’s the comparisons and jabs.

      Also, I do think Google successfully came off as the good guy here. Plus, it won the Adobe alliance just by comparison to the alternative.

  4. Seems like deja vu. Wasn’t Microsoft et al showing wonderful things just before the iPad launch only to be trounced by it? Now we have Google showing wonderful things just before WWDC.

    I don’t have any issue with Google or Android. In fact, Android is the only real choice for Verizon customers like me. However, it just seems like if iPhone is the platform to beat you might want to wait until just after the latest refresh.

    1. Apple did the iPhone 4 OS preview a while back, so technically they are after. Also, it’s kind of naive to expect Google to shift their whole developer conference to a different time for this reason.

      1. Apple did unveil iPhone 4.0 but that they haven’t told you everything there is to it. iPhone 4.0 might have other features that Apple is saving for WWDC.

  5. Liz,

    Why is no one talking about the fact that Google happily embraced the virtues of HTML5 as the future of the web, when that was first big news…but now they’ve got this partnership with Adobe, and they’re talking up how important it is to include Flash in the web experience? And they’re using this as as evidence of Apple’s inferior philosophy?


    1. Google has done more for HTML 5 than Apple.

      Apple’s strategy is Cocoa + lip service to HTML 5.

      Google is inclusive in the technologies it supports. It fully supports HTML 5 while also supporting other technologies that are common the web.

      Not sure what you are confused about.

      1. Google wants Flash only because Google wants everything to be a laggy shtty web service. That way they can sell you ads, easily develop web apps to sell you ads on and make you use Google to search for it all.

        If developers start making apps that reside locally on machines (like iPHone apps) then that threatens Google’s world domination plans.

        Never mind if the best consumer experience is the best of both worlds. A fast responsive local app combined with cloud data communications.

        Nope Google wants it all web. Everything on a browser.

        So they can become King.

        Not saying Apple is benevolent. But Google sure ain’t either.

      2. You forgot Apple has a hand in the code of the HTML5 specs. Right now Google just bought another comapny to try and pitch a crappy rip-off version without many of the functions of the “Real” HTML5.
        Stop drinking the Koold-Aid.

  6. “Google’s main objective is to advance the web as a platform”

    That’s funny… Google has always said that their main objective was “Organize the world’s information”… it’s their BHAG.

    I’m a little mystified about what Google’s focus is these days – they’re all over the map… er… yeah, maps too.

  7. What a pathetic display of delusions of grandeur and like you rightly say “Apple envy”.

    This was a Google that did not need to lower itself to levels of drunken sailors. Maybe this was some kind of liberating therapy for Mr. Gundotra for his many yrs at MSFT. Either way they took the mask off and it wasn’t pretty nor elegant.

  8. I generally like the services google provides. But for a company that claims to be “not evil” – they were sure talking a lot of smack. Hopefully they can translate all this angst into focus long enough to deliver a great consumer product experience.

    Remember: Desktop linux was once marketed via the virtues of “free”, “choice”, “options”. They could never agree on anything and thus lost focus on the goal of providing an end-user oriented product.

  9. You do realise that Apple do exactly the same thing at their events don’t you?

    1. So Mark you are trying to say Apple shows an Apple complex at Apple announcements? Very Meta dude. Very Meta.

      1. facepalm

        Trashing the opposition. I shouldn’t really have to explain that.

  10. I shudder to think of Steve Job’s retort!

    Google is going down the war path, arguably the wrong path.

    While chinks are appearing in Google’s armour, and a lack of self confidence, Apple is just cruising!

    1. Yeah 100,000 chinks a day, wow

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