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Google I/O day 2 details... for geeks and developers!

With the ramifications for end-users out of the way, I can now focus on the interesting bits -- the technology behind Froyo (Android 2.2) that makes it so damn exciting.

First, the underlying operating system (or virtual machine) now features a just-in-time (JIT) compiler. Claims of 2- to 5-times faster performance over Android 2.1 were touted but the actual demonstration showed a gain of about 25% (still impressive!) Multi-tasking (of a sort) was also discussed: cloud messaging and signalling. In Android 2.2 it's very easy to send data into the cloud and have it appear on an associated Android device -- this is the technology behind the new Marketplace. The communication can be achieved with a Chrome extension too: simply click a button in Chrome to send a browser tab to your Android phone.
Changes have also been made to make your Android devices more open, in every sense of the word. Android 2.2 will fully support Microsoft Exchange and the juicy smartphone functionality it provides: remote wiping, auto-discovery, calendar syncing, etc. Also, not only will you be able to easily transfer apps from an old Android smartphone to another, but also your data. Hooray!

(Bonus picture -- no, no one knows why it was in the keynote slides...)

Next, on the front-end, there have been some significant changes to the Web browser in Android 2.2. The whole geolocation thing was pretty cool, but now the browser exposes the tilt and turn of your Android device too! The keynote demonstration showed a Google Map being rotated as they turned the phone. And then... they showed the Android smartphone's camera being used by Google Buzz -- with Android 2.2 you will be able to post pictures to Buzz (or Twitter, or Facebook, or...) without any external apps or plug-ins -- just pure HTML5. Or part HTML5, part magic, anyway. The new browser is leaps and bounds faster than Android 2.1 and the iPad, incidentally -- at least as far as the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark goes, anyway.

The next 'oooh awesome' demonstration was voice recognition. Google pointed out that it has spent a lot of money and time on voice recognition in recent years, mostly because of the difficulty entering keystrokes while on the move. With Android 2.2 the voice-searching functionality has reached maturity -- the demonstration was nothing short of magical -- and it's not just for English either! Mandarin and Japanese were cited in the demonstration, but presumably other languages are supported, too.

As a corollary to voice recognition, near-real-time translation also makes an appearance in Android 2.2. Speak to your Android, wait a few seconds while it's processed by Google's cloud and voila! A computerised voice orates your phrase in Chinese, French, German! Can you say 'universal translator' and 'easy-mode world travel'?

Android 2.2 also features the ability to detect your intention. In the keynote they used the phrase 'call fifth floor restaurant' -- not only was it accurately transcribed but the restaurant's number was found (via Google search?) and automatically dialled on the phone! Presumably geolocation is also used, which would enable voice commands like 'call the local pizza house'.

Incidentally, the advertising tools being made in Android 2.2 (detailed in my previous post) will also make 'click to call' available to advertisers. If you expose your geolocation, you could be targeted with local ads -- for a restaurant or cinema, for example. You'll have the option of pushing a 'dial' button right there in the ad.

Finally, Android 2.2 will fully support Adobe Flash 10.1 and AIR. Throughout the entire keynote there were at least 20 jabs at Apple and its closed, draconian platform. I think every keynote speaker had a go, even Schmidt himself! And of course, while the Adobe CEO was on stage, it was almost non-stop. Despite the fud, the main take-away was this: open = inclusive, not exclusive. Open means, amongst other things, that you are open to innovation -- and that's a good thing.

* * *
You should check the Android 2.2 SDK highlights just in case I missed anything -- otherwise, I look forward to seeing the great apps that will emerge for Android 2.2!

Tags: 2.2, android, api, chrome, cloud, extension, froyo, google, google io, GoogleIo, io 2010, Io2010, messaging, search, transcribe, translate, voice recognition, VoiceRecognition