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Googlefest

Google is running its I/O conference this week. The equivalent of Apple's long-running WWDC conference in June, it's the place for developers for Google's software to go to learn about what's coming up and voice their questions and concerns. Sounds a bit boring, doesn't it? Fortunately, it's also the place for Google to announce lots of cool stuff. Ah, that's better.

Day one was yesterday, and it was all about Android. We've already told you about Google Music, but there was lots of other cool stuff announced to. First of all, Movies. Over the weekend, Google added 3000 big-name feature films to YouTube to rent, and they're coming to Android too. You'll be able to rent them through the Android Market and stream them straight to your device in a new Movies app. (We're a bit surprised they didn't integrate it with the YouTube app, but we suspect they're taking a leaf out of Apple's book when it comes to usability.)

What else? Well, how about updates? Android 3.1, the first update to Google's 'Honeycomb' tablet version of Android, was announced yesterday and should be rolled out to most Honeycomb tablets in the next couple of weeks. It speeds things up considerably, apparently, and irons out some of the kinks that had people worried in 3.0.

Going forward, and more interestingly, Google announced that 'Ice Cream Sandwich', the next big version of Android, will be released in Autumn. Our guess is it'll be known formally as Android 4, as it'll unite the 3.0 tablet version with the phone version, currently on 2.3.3 'Gingerbread'.

What that means is one version of Android that can be installed anywhere - from a tablet right down to, er, microwave ovens and calculators. The idea is that Android will automatically adjust itself to the size and shape of the screen it's put onto. Sounds pretty nifty, but hard to get right, so here's hoping Google know what they're doing - and that they can show developers how to create apps which adjust properly.

To further this crazy vision, Google even released an'open accessory toolkit' for Android. It's a little geeky even for us to explain, but essentally they want to make it as easy for developers to make accessories for Android devices - and even their own Android devices - as it is to make apps. They also showed off a nifty new service which lets people make home devices, like lamps or cookers, which can be controlled from an Android device.

What does this all mean? It means Google knows the first crop of Android tablets hasn't sold that well, and it doesn't give a stuff. It's got bigger fish to fry - making Android the underpinning of every 'smart' device in our lives, from wristwatches to shower controls. Will it succeed? It's been doing alright so far.

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