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Google Announces Chromebook, Music, Movies and More at I/O Conference

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Google took us further into the digital media future with some compelling announcements at the fourth annual Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco this week. Recent Google I/O keynotes seem silly in retrospect -- both Google Wave and Buzz were epic busts. But this year Google narrowed its focuses to it's strengths, namely the Android mobile operating system and the Chrome browser and operating system. The gist was this: Use Google's web-based tools and applications, combine with seemingly infinite storage space in the cloud, and bulky hard drives and desktop PC's will become mere artifacts of our technological evolution. A Google account combined with a device running Android or Chrome OS will be all you need to do [almost] anything.

The day one keynote (video) included the expected launch of Google's cloud-based music locker. Google Music Beta, currently invite only, was launched without proper licensing from labels, publishers, and artists. In skirting questions regarding working with labels, Google consistently claimed it had big plans but couldn't comment on the ongoing negotiations. The beta is a bit half-baked from a user perspective, essentially one must download a Music Manager application to upload mp3s from a computer to a cloud-based server, which then can be played via the web-based player at or via the Google Music Android application. Google currently doesn't offer any MP3s for purchase or download, however, a sampling of tracks from various genres are made available for new users to add to their collections and stream from the cloud. Amazon, which does have a web- and mobile-based mp3 downloads store, launched a cloud-streaming application earlier this year. Apple is rumored to have a cloud-streaming app in the works.


Google also expanded its Android Marketplace to include Books and Movies. Movies can be rented for streaming on the web and on some Android tablets (it was announced that it will soon be available on Google TVs as part of an upcoming full Android Marketplace integration). Movies can be rented via from $1.99 - $3.99. Google beat Netflix by about a day with this announcement, as Netflix began rolling out its streaming video service for Android devices on Thursday.

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The opening-night afterparty was dubbed Infinite Playground and, as you can see in this video, included awesome inventions such as the Bicycle-Powered Merry-Go-Round in addition to the self-driving Google car and various robots. All enjoyed to a live soundtrack performed by Jane's Addiction, DJs Mark Farina and Miguel Migs (watch video of all 3 sets).

The highlight of the Day Two keynote (video) was the launch announcement of the Google Chromebook. In June the Chromebook -- a netbook with cloud-based applications built specifically for the enterprise and education -- will hit the streets, with Samsung and Acer as partners. The Chromebooks will be available to businesses for $28 per user per month and to educational institutes for $20 per user per month.


The Chromebooks, with 11.6-inch (Acer) or 12.1-inch HD displays (Samsung), will be available to consumers from $349 for the Acer to $429 (WiFi only) and $499 (3G) for the Samsung.

Google I/O has become wildly popular thanks in great part to valuable giveaways in previous years (the Nexus One in 2010 and the Android G2 phone in 2009) and this year topped all in that department. Google I/O 2011 sold out in under an hour (early bird registration was $450 for the two-day event). All 5,000 attendees this year were given the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet a month before it's available in stores. (Disclaimer: we [ok, I] shamelessly accepted this gift).

Both Android and Chrome are built on Open Source platforms which provides both developers and users more flexibility and control in customizing or optimizing devices using the operating systems. The I/O conference is not only a showcase for developers who have found ingenious ways to create applications, robots, cars, etc, that rely on Google tools in some form or fashion.

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