Maggie Shiels

Google gives it all away

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 30 May 08, 11:08 GMT

Google poolThe name of the game at the Google developers conference in San Francisco was 'free.'

The App Engine, which was just launched six weeks ago and has had developers clamouring to use it, is now being opened up to everyone and is free. The new version of the web tool kit is free. Gears is for nothing. Google Earth, nada. And Android, the mobile software platform also at no cost down.

So while most of the booty really is free as part of the company's commitment to open source, there are one or two wee fly efforts to wheedle money out of people.

For a start from the end of the year, developers will have to pay to use the App Engine if they go over a certain number of page views.

Granted Google reckons the costs will be around $40 (£20) a month and that's not mega bucks in the huge scheme of things. But that's a possible $1.4 million (£750,000) from the 3000 people who went to Google IO. Surely every little counts even for a billion dollar company?

I liked the way the technical lead for the project Kevin Gibbs said that Google had been listening to developers and what they were hearing was that people 'wanted' to pay to use the App Engine. Really???

Let's look at Android and how Google will monetize that platform.

The demo phone had everyone buzzing. It looked a lot like the iPhone with its touch screen and cool apps that let you do everything from play Pac Man to drawing a specific shape on the screen to unlock the phone instead of using a password.

Questions put to tech lead Andy Rubin in a journalists q and a that this was a shot across Apple's bows were shrugged off because he claimed Android could also have the trackball facility just like the Blackberry. He also said that Google wouldn't be making the actual device and that they are giving away all the software.

Mind you the company's vp of engineering, Vic Gundotra did admit that the iPhone was something to behold and that he "is a slave to Apple products and willingly opens his wallet every time Steve Jobs comes out with something new."

Not too long to wait Vic. Put Apple's developer conference on June the 9th on your Google calendar.

Back to the money part because Google is working aggressively on building infrastructure to sell ads on mobile phones, including those using Android. And with mobile devices being talked up as the next big thing it also represents another platform for Google to try and dominate.

I don't mean to sound churlish but let's not forget that behind this mantra of giving back to the community, Vic Gundotra openly admitted that one of the reasons Google invests in things "is if it benefits Google economically." Fair dues.

Beanbag-timeBy and large though this conference certainly did seem to be a homage to the idea of free, even if attendees had to pay $400 (£200) to get in. It's Google's biggest developers' shindig to date and the first time the company has charged people. But for the money, there was a whole lot of free.

Besides the t-shirts which came with the price of entry might be a collectors item one day. The pattern was meant to spell out Google IO in binary, but it actually spelled out Google KO.

It's kind of good to know Google fouls up now and then. Still I have to tell you in all the years of going to conferences, this one was a haven of cool.

From the start of the day to the end of the day, there was a truck load of free food. You could choose to gorge on free sandwiches, pastries and fresh fruit at any time of the day or nip into the grill room, texicali or deli rooms.

Sodas, candy, crisps or chips as they are known here, were free. There was other free swag like tote bags and water bottles.

WiFi was free and so was a big whoop up party that included games, booze and music from a New Zealand band called the Flight of the Conchords.

In between conference sessions, you could play pool or football or just catch up on your Gmail while relaxing on one of the colourful beanbags.

Karla massageAnd the total icing on the cake was the relaxation zone where Alexa and Karla took care of easing the stresses and strains of your day by giving you a good chair massage.

Both are full time Google massage therapists yet alas haven't worked out the knots and kinks in Sergey or Larry's shoulders.

If you ever wanted to know what working for Google was like, then this conference was the place to be.

Note to conference organisers, massage therapists are the total killer app!


  • Comment number 1.

    The BBC really needs to implement photos which can be enlarged on its website - I'd love to see bigger versions of the top two on this post but I can't for some reason.

  • Comment number 2.

    The BBC really needs to implement a spellchecker in its blog engine. Clammering? Or is that an American spelling? I'm clamouring for an answer!

  • Comment number 3.

    "the reasons Google *invests* in things "is if it benefits Google economically." Fair dues"

    This ranks up there amid dumbest statements I've ever read - kind of redundant isn't it?

    Definition of Invest:

    " hopes of getting a future return or interest from it"

    Or is there another reason to invest?

  • Comment number 4.

    There is nothing comes FREE in this world, google is making the whole world fool. They are throwing tools free out there so that people can work on those tools for free and then google make money from those product.

  • Comment number 5.

    4 - You seem to be missing the point about Free software; you can develop something based on Gears or the web toolkit and Google has no more rights over the end result than you do; how exactly is this a bad thing?

    That said; Maggie's mixed Google Earth into the same sentence as the other two, then talked about Google's "commitment to open source", Earth is not open source.

  • Comment number 6.

    Quite. The fact that FOSS is usually free of charge (and, of course, its distribution can't ever be effectively restricted by a price tag) often confuses people and leads them to believe that that is the most important thing about it, when actually it is of no importance at all.

    The BBC Click team tripped themselves up over this same issue recently - among other errors and faux pas describing OpenOffice as the best value "freeware" they had come across!

  • Comment number 7.

    Possibly the word "value" meant something other than monetary?

  • Comment number 8.

    Whether they used monetary amounts to estimate the value of the gratis software they looked at or simply ranked them, they do not say. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they described OO as "freeware".

    What /really/ matters though is that they lumped freeware, shareware and FOSS all together in their survey, failing to make the distinction and consequently significantly undervaluing FOSS. I suppose it would've been adequate and appropriate to do so if they'd stuck to single items of cross-platform software, like FF and OO, but they didn't.

  • Comment number 9.

    I see they are copying Apple again. That doesn't work as Apple are always 3 steps ahead. Wait till you see the price of the new iPhone compared to a blackberry.


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