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At Google’s developer conference in San Francisco today, it provided rock-solid evidence of Android’s gaining momentum and outlined where the platform was headed, including new features that make the platform more competitive, and in some cases, leap-frogs the iPhone.
The entire presentation, given by Vic Gundotra, the VP of Engineering in charge of mobile applications, and was sprinkled with back-handed jabs at Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), and stressed how being open means being inclusive. “Thank you for supporting Android and for voting on the side of open,” he said. Today’s announcements included incremental updates to Android, such as new features like tethering. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) also demonstrated future versions of its app store, and showed off new ad formats that mock Apple’s iAds. As is typical with these kinds of Google events, everyone in the audience walked away with Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G, which comes out June 4.
Some of the impressive figures shared today:
— Google is now activating 100,000 mobile phones a day, up from 60,000 a day in February.
— In the first six months of offering free turn-by-turn navigation, it has mapped 1 billion miles.
— Google searches on mobile have grown five times in the past two years across all phones.
— The Android Market now has 50,000 applications, and 180,000 registered developers.
Google’s announcements can be broken down into four parts:
Froyo: Google unveiled Android 2.2, which is code-named Froyo for Frozen Yogurt. The platform, which will be released to hardware compatible phones over time, will be two to five times faster than running Eclair. That will improve the entire experience on the phone, but also the performance of games. New enterprise features for Froyo includes integrating Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Exchange and enabling an IT department to remote wipe a device if necessary. Cool new features from Froyo consists of tethering, so you can internet-enable your laptop, or create a WiFi hotspot with your phone. One necessary chagne that Froyo has is to allow users to save large applications to the SD card, rather than the phone’s memory. This task will now be done automatically for the user. It will also have Adobe’s Flash, clearly something the iPhone won’t be supporting. In one of his jabs at Apple, Gundotra, said: “A special thanks to Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) for wanting to engage with us. It’s much nicer [for Google to be inclusive] than just saying no.”
New developer updates: A few new features were added to the developer SDK. One of the more impressive demonstrations was of how the Chrome browser on the PC was tied to the phone. If you find directions on the computer, and send them to the phone, it immediately launches the maps application.
— Android Market updates: Google provided a sneak peak of upcoming Android Market updates. A user can now access the application catalog from the browser, and then can send applications right to the phone, without having to tether the device to the PC. Google is also making easy to slide over all your non-DRM music to the Android device. It also demonstrated how to buy songs or albums in the market, which Gundotra said is not just for apps, signaling that Google will be getting into more content sales.
— Advertising: One area they are facing stiff competition from Apple is advertising. While Apple moves forward with its iAd service, Google is still waiting to hear from the FTC about its purchase of AdMob. Gundotra: “We aren