Google’s Apple Complex on Display at I/O

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?”

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

A Brighter Week Ahead for Flash

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