Galaxy Nexus, the first-ever AsiaD conference is kicking off as the sun sets over Victoria Harbour. The opening keynote is quite the impressive one, with Google's own Senior Vice President of Mobile, Andy Rubin, on the docket. Mr. Rubin's no stranger to these events -- in fact, we've liveblogged his interviews twice from All Things D events -- and we're expecting quite the talk tonight following the official unveiling of Ice Cream Sandwich. Join us after the break for the liveblog!
7:29PM And that's it for the opening session here at AsiaD! Hope you enjoyed, and we'll be back tomorrow with plenty more!
7:27AM Andy: "You know, TV is relatively passive -- I do think that having a tablet or phone on the couch while watching TV can create a great experience. I'm a platform. I have to tie those things together."
7:26AM Final question for the night is asking Google why it's insisting that an app written for a cellphone would work on a TV, in theory.
7:24AM Well, he said that they'll open-source it "a couple of weeks" after it lands on the Galaxy Nexus in November, so shortly after that. Probably before Christmas, if we had to guess.
7:23AM Andy's steadfastly saying that there's no time table for when Ice Cream Sandwich will come to tablets, but we get the impression that it'll go down sooner rather than later.
7:22AM Andy's making it super clear that ICS is killing this notion. If you're hunting for a Twitter app that looks different + takes advantage of the tablet screen space, don't count on it. Odd.
7:21AM Walt's suggesting that there are extremely few "tablet-optimized" apps on Android tablets. Andy: "There shouldn't be tablet-specific apps. It's not necessary to make the distinction. If someone writes an ICS app, it'll run on both. That's the remerging of these things. I want an app written on TVs to run on phones."
7:20AM Andy: "You can't think about having one screen size. Phones and tablets have different sized displays -- that's why the Android Market doesn't have segments of apps that specifically run on phones and specifically on tablets."
7:19AM Joanna Stern's up! She's asking about a time table for seeing more apps on Android tablets, and when ICS will hit tablets.
7:19AM Andy: "There's no way around this problem. Everyone has legacy. My job is to ensure that apps have some level of backwards compatibility." He clarifies that Ice Cream Sandwich is totally backwards compatible with the apps that are already out there.
7:18AM Andy: "I define fragmentation when a company like HTC and Samsung builds a phone, and somehow they aren't compatible. All companies have to pass our compatibility test suite. I've heard the media describe fragmentation when phones just look different -- that's not fragmentation, that's just differentiation." Walt accurately points out that we're raging on companies rolling out Android updates at random intervals, but Andy still says even that's not "called fragmentation." "It's called legacy," says Andy.
7:16AM When asked about HTML5, Andy's envisioning a world where HTML5 and app platforms overlap and integrate to some extent in the future. Industry standards move at a different pace compared to something like today's smartphone market.
7:14AM Andy says "stay tuned," and he realizes that Google's "a little behind" when it comes to discovering useful things in the Market, but that improvement are en route.
7:14AM Andy: "We're a search company, we know how to find things, and while we haven't applied all of that logic to the Android Market just yet, we're actively doing it. Two months ago, we integrated our actual Google Search into the Market, supplanted a homegrown search that we just used to get to market."
7:13AM A listener here is stating that the Android Market is totally discombobulated compared to the sleekness of Apple's App Store.
7:12AM Andy: "I think there are some innovation you can protect with patents, but some just happen. I could probably protect some things in Android, but I'm not so concerned with that -- I just want to build great products."
7:11AM Andy's aptly pointing out that a ton of this already takes place for one phone to call another, and "every phone has an MP3 encoder." He says that it "would be beautiful if there were a clearing house where companies could go to achieve this stuff -- it's not a new system. It's happening so fast, and the industry is so competitive. The legal system really hasn't caught up yet."
7:10AM Andy's hopeful that we can achieve "patent peace," so people aren't just suing each other, and companies can innovate and "just create great products." He even spoke of an industry-wide cross-licensing agreement, and Walt's prodding for more information on his grand scheme.
7:09AM Ha! Andy just said that Moto doesn't ask him anything when it comes to pricing strategy. That could change soon enough! Time for Q&A!
7:08AM Andy: "Don't think of this as putting Google in the hardware business. It'll remain pretty much how we've operated with them already."
7:07AM Andy: "I think Moto makes great products -- Sanjay and I have worked together a long time, and we thought it made sense to operate as one." He's not shying away from the value of Motorola's patents -- calls it "patent peace." Google's buying "patent peace." Glad we cleared that up!
7:06AM Walt: "One more question! Why should your other partners feel okay that you're going to become a hardware company if the Motorola Mobility acquisition goes through?"
7:05AM Walt's trying to focus on the LTE aspect, asking if it'll be on Verizon. Andy's not budging. We can smell VZW's publicity police breathing down his neck.
7:05AM Andy's stating that it'll be let out around the world, but he's not prepared to announce anyone beyond NTT DoCoMo in Japan.
7:04AM Walt: "What's the US carrier for the Galaxy Nexus?"
7:04AM Andy's still asserting that these kinds of things are good for the company. "If Amazon has an app store, Google would love to put their search within that store. This isn't some kind of walled garden, and that's the notion of openness. Anything that runs Android enables developers to develop for it! Perhaps this will solve the tablet problem."
7:02AM Pretty sure Lion Dance, Part II is about to break out.
7:02AM Andy: "I create an open operating system, and someone uses it." Of course he's happy about that! Walt's not buying it...
7:01AM Walt: "It's not the Google interface. It's a completely different layer. Operates differently, and in the case of the Fire, it's very content focused. How do you feel about that? Is it good for Google?"
7:01AM Changing topics back to tablets. Talking about the Kindle Fire and Grid10, both of which have taken extreme liberties with Android.
7:00AM Andy essentially confirmed rumors that Google was actively working to create a Google Music that included sales, but that record companies weren't willing to bargain with the company in the way they were with Apple. He also made clear that he's feeling mighty optimistic that Google's "almost there" with ironing out the necessary deals. Huge news!
6:59AM Andy just made super clear that Google's "very close" to coming up with a digital download store, that'll include "a little twist." "It won't just be buying songs for 99 cents."
6:58AM Walt asks why Google doesn't also sell the music. Andy: "Look, we're a different company. We've in the very early phases of adding consumer products. The media companies saw us as a search company, not as what we really are. We'll see the benefits of that really soon."
6:57AM Andy: "We found a unique offering that we thought was good enough to create a holistic solution, and particularly with music, we think the cloud is important." He's talking about Google's ability to remove syncs. Responding to Walt's suggestion that this all sounds like iCloud, Andy says: "Remember, Android had it first."
6:56AM Walt's talking up Google Music -- asking what happened with Google's efforts to directly sell that kind of media.
6:55AM Andy: "We can only count the tablets with Google services on them -- we know there's at least six million out there. When you consider that it only takes around half a million to pay for itself, six million is a nice number. It's not 30 million or something, but it's a healthy figure."
6:54AM Ha! Here we go!
6:54AM Andy: "Well, Walt. I wouldn't say they've *completely* flopped..."
6:54AM Walt: "How come Android tablets have completely flopped in the market?"
6:54AM Andy: "It seems to me like a repeat of history. It might not be a bad approach, just different. We'll have to see how it all plays out."
6:53AM Walt: "You're saying that the Microsoft approach... it's not letting people radically change it."
6:53AM Andy: "Everyone has to operate within the tile, because somebody says you have to. You lose some of the creativity. If you want to take over the screen, you should be able to. We build Android for that explicit purpose, to be customized by the OEM and then customized by the consumer." Bold words, Andy!
6:52AM Andy: "Windows Phone could be very dangerous for Microsoft. It reminds me of the PC business, where every beige box has the same general user interface -- things are commoditized."
6:50AM Walt: "Ok, so let's talk about Windows Phone. If a martian saw both your phone and WP7, they may say that they seem similar." Wait, seriously? Metro is about as unique as it gets -- we think iOS and Android look *way* more similar than Android and WP7!
6:50AM Andy: "I don't think so. I worked at Apple at one point, and the DNA in the people walking the halls at Apple -- it's the combination of creative + computer science. They're living within the same walls at Apple, and then I went on to found my own company and get acquired by Google. I think the combination at Apple has the opportunity to delight a lot of consumers, and we're trying as hard as we can to go after that at Google. With respect to Steve, it's time for a lot of other hugely talented people at Apple to step it up and carry the torch."
6:48AM Walt: "Let me ask you about Apple. Do you think they'll lose a step due to Steve's passing?"
6:48AM Argh, we've digressed from the RIM discussion. Though, Andy did say that vertical integration is hugely beneficial in some things, but it limits flexibility in an environment that requires you to be hugely flexible and dynamic.
6:47AM Walt: "When I visited RIM, I flew on Bearskin Airlines." Andy confirmed that he didn't. We're definitely interested in hearing more on this tangent in the AsiaD afterparty.
6:46AM Andy: "I think they're very smart. They're Canadian." Huge laughs!
6:46AM Walt: "So, what about RIM? What's your thoughts on RIM? I'm not asking you to kick anyone when they're down..."
6:46AM Andy: "It's anyone in the platform business. Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Nokia..." (It took a *lot* of effort to get that out of him.)
6:45AM Andy's dodging the question a bit. Walt's rephrasing it -- let's talk about rivals, not partners.
6:45AM Andy, talking early days: "Anyone that's still using this old model of building products. More like feature phones and early smartphones. Folks like Motorola, LG and Samsung."
6:44AM Walt: "Who is Android's main competition?"
6:43AM Andy's showing off some easter egg on the Face Unlock feature that warps Walt's face, much like mashing the C-arrows in the intro to Mario 64. Man, Mario 64. It's been a while.
6:42AM Andy: "We have tools that allow devs to run things on the GPU instead of the 1.2GHz dual-core chip, so it can be standardized across more devices."
6:41AM Walt, speaking about a glitch in the Face Unlock demo: "I hope it improves before I review it!" Laughs all around!
6:40AM Andy just confirmed that Pittsburgh-based PittPatt, which Google acquired earlier this year, was responsible for the front-facing Face Unlock feature that we saw this morning. In fact, Google had to "slow down the process" because PittPatt's software was too fast to make folks believe that any security at all was involved.
6:39AM Andy's busted out the Galaxy Nexus! TI dual-core OMAP processor confirmed, and he's now talking up the barometer, which aids GPS in telling how high you are off the ground. Walt jokes that he often wonders just how high he is off of the ground. Har!
6:37AM Matias took a bold step by making Honeycomb more virtual (according to Andy, "like Tron") instead of more like common commodities, like wood or metal, which other platforms have flocked to.
6:36AM Andy's talking up Matias Duarte, Google's Director of User Experience, explaining how he's been to places like Danger and Palm, and now he's been head-down on making Ice Cream Sandwich (and Android in general) "futureproof" to some extent.
6:35AM Andy: "We think about how to make things simple. Remember the G1? That wasn't simple -- it was a good 1.0 device, but we've evolved. We wanted to be intuitive. Extensions to user's daily activities. Creating unique UIs is hard, and we're never going to stop. ICS is the best we've ever done, and it's based off of some of those great aspects of Honeycomb."
6:34AM Walt: "I think once you said that Android is more for technies, and you'd prefer it became a bit more mainstream. Honeycomb actually surfaced a lot of things that didn't make you do so many extra steps. Was that a purposeful design goal?"
6:33AM Andy's talking about the thought process that went into ICS. Speaking about apps that are used on both phones and tablets, and how to make 'em "smart" for both, instead of just "blowing up" a phone app to fit on a tablet.
6:31AM Andy's agreeing: "What we did first was ship Honeycomb, and now with Android 4.0, we're supporting both phones and tablets."
6:31AM Walt: "It seems with Ice Cream Sandwich that you're fusing two worlds."
6:31AM Ha! Andy just confirmed to Walt that he's got "more than one" Galaxy Nexus on his person. Fancy!
6:29AM They're talking about the Galaxy Nexus that was outed this morning, and now Walt's probing Andy on "the purpose of Nexus devices."
6:29AM Andy Rubin's out on stage! He just told Walt there's "around 500" Android-based devices out around the world -- talking about types / models.
6:27AM Kara's shown on a video here, from the hospital. Her advice? "Don't get on a 14 hour flight with a couple of huge dudes beside you so you can't get up and walk around."
6:25AM Ha! Kara's brother Jeff just showed up on stage. Walt's "dashing his journalistic aspirations." But hey, he's a good sport.
6:24AM Sounds like Peter Kafka and Ina Fried will be stepping it up in order to help Walt out here.
6:24AM Wow, some other sad news -- Walt's here soloing it, as Kara's in a hospital across town. She developed a clot on her 15 hour flight across the world, and so this is "the first time in ten years she'll miss being at D." Sorry to hear it, Kara! Get well soon!
6:22AM Walt's announcing that Phil Schiller had to cancel his appearance here in order to be back in California for Steve Jobs' memorial.
6:21AM And out comes Walt! He aptly states: "I've never followed an act like that before."
6:20AM If you'd like this at your next gathering or birthday party, you seriously need to visit liondance.com.hk right now.
6:19AM Yes, this is happening. And it's still happening. Is that Andy Rubin in the red dragon?
6:18AM There's a full band up in here breaking it down. Asia has us. And we love it.
6:18AM Without question, the zaniest intro to a conference ever.
6:16AM Wow, some really insane stuff is going down here. Really insane lion dance. Really. Insane.
6:13AM We're getting underway! Still feels like it'll be a few before Andy climbs on stage. We're hearing a bit about how Asia has shaped our consumer technology universe.
6:11AM "Have you ever seen the rain?" I have, CCR, I have. And it's beautiful.
6:09AM Andy's supposed to take the stage here at at 6:00PM local time (that's 6:00AM back in New York), but in case it's not incredibly obvious, the show's running a bit behind. Lots of talking going on. Most people look at least semi-famous. iPhones are a rare spot. We're being told that things are about to start "momentarily!"
6:02AM Spotting a few Galaxy Nexus handsets floating around already. Mmm. Nexus.
5:58AM And we're in! "I wish I knew what I know now... when I was younger" playing in the background. Preach it, brother.