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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham

So far this year's Google I/O has been very developer-centric—perhaps not surprising given that I/O is, at the end of the day, a developer's conference. Especially compared to last year's skydiving, Glass-revealing, Nexus-introducing keynote, yesterday's three-and-a-half-hour keynote presentation focused overwhelmingly on back-end technologies rather than concrete products aimed at consumers.

There's still plenty to see. All this year we've been taking photos to show you just what it's like to cover these shows—we've shown you things as large as CES and as small as Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference. Our pictures from the first day of Google I/O should give you some idea of what it's like to attend a developer conference for one of tech's most influential companies.


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I/O is held in the west hall of the Moscone Center, and between the giant Google signs and this real-life Google Maps pin you'd be hard-pressed to miss it.

Andrew Cunningham

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Original author: 
Ben Rooney

It was hard to avoid the message at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The GSMA, the organizing body, was keen for everyone to believe that Near Field Communication might finally be about to have its day.

NFC has been a decade in the making, and has always been about to be “The Next Big Thing.” It is a contactless radio technology that can transmit data between two devices within a few centimeters of each other. Coupled with a security chip to encrypt data, it promises to transform a wide range of consumer experiences from simple ticketing to the Holy Grail of replacing your cash and payment cards with just your smartphone. The key word there is “promise.”

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By Dominique Hazaël-Massieux: People used to stare at me and laugh, back in 2005 when W3C launched its Mobile Web Initiative to advocate the importance of the web to the mobile world. Now I am the one smiling much of the time, as I did most recently during the 2013 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, one of the largest events to focus on mobile devices and networks.

This year W3C had a huge HTML5 logo splashed across its booth to emphasize the impact of the Open Web Platform across industries and devices. But the real adoption story was told by the HTML5 logos prominent at many, many other booths. The web has gained real visibility on mobile, and we should all be smiling because we are all getting closer to a platform for reaching more people on more devices at lower cost.

MWC 2013 also confirmed that HTML5 has broken out of the browser. We are seeing more and more HTML5-based development platforms, such as PhoneGap, Windows 8, Blackberry, and Tizen. Mozilla’s big announcement at MWC 2013 centered on FirefoxOS, Mozilla’s mobile operating system entirely based on web technologies. W3C and Intel partnered to create a T-shirt that says “I See HTML5 Everywhere.” And indeed, I do.

The challenge of mobile

Not only has the web a big role to play on mobile, mobile has also a key role to play for the web. As more and more of our connected interactions start or end on mobile devices, we must ensure that the web platform adapts to our mobile lives. I believe this is critical for the future of the web.

For many years W3C has designed technology to make the experience of web users on mobile ever more rich, adapted, and integrated. For example, CSS media queries provide the basis for responsive web design. There is already a lot for mobile, and a lot more is coming. To help people follow all the activity, every quarter I publish an overview of web technologies that are most relevant to mobile.

These technologies are the tools designers can rely on to build the user experience they need. But technologies are only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to making the web user experience work on mobile devices. The number of A List Apart articles about mobile development provides a clear sign that this challenge is driving creativity in the design community. Responsive web design, mobile first, future friendly, and just-in-time interactions are some of the trends that have resonated with me over the years. The creativity is fantastic, but we still want our lives to be easier. Where web technologies do not yet provide the hooks you need to practice your craft, please let us know. Feel free to write me directly: dom@w3.org.

Closing the gap

Another challenge that we, the web community, face on mobile is the amazing energy devoted to native development.

The web has displaced a lot of the native software development on traditional computers; on mobile, the reverse trend has happened. Content that users had enjoyed on the web for years started to migrate to native applications: newspapers, social networking, media sharing, government services, to name a few. And to add insult to injury, a number of these content providers are pushing their users away from their website toward their native application, with obtrusive banners or pop-ups.

It is unclear where the world is going on mobile: some statistics and reports show a strong push toward moving back to the web (e.g., the recent Kendo UI survey), while others argue the opposite. What is clear to me, though, is that we cannot afford to let mobile become a native-entrenched ecosystem.

What has made the web unique and popular in so many hearts is not the technology (some great, some terrible) nor even the ubiquity (since interoperability can reduce it). I believe the much more fundamental importance of the web comes from its structural openness: anyone can publish the content they see fit and anyone can participate in defining the future of the web as a platform.

Native ecosystems on mobile have historically been very closed ecosystems, under the control of single commercial entities. A world where the majority of our information and infrastructure would be trapped inside these ecosystems is not something we should accept lightly. Mind you, I appreciate the innovations spawned by these platforms, but we need to encourage the cycle where innovations become standards, and those standards prime the platform for the next innovations.

Of course the best way to shift the balance to the web is to make the web the best platform for mobile. Achieving this will require ideas and energy from many people, and web developers and designers play a critical role in shaping the next generation of web user experiences. I am leading a focused effort in W3C to assess what we can and should do to make the web more competitive on mobile, and welcome feedback and ideas on what the missing pieces in the puzzle are.

Beyond mobile

I believe a key part in making the web the “king of mobile” is to realize that mobile devices are a means to an end. In our connected world—computers, phones, tablets, TVs, cars, glasses, watches, refrigerators, lightbulbs, sensors and more to come—mobile phones will most likely remain the hub for while. The only platform that can realistically be made available on all these devices is the web.

We have a unique opportunity to make the Open Web Platform a success. I realize getting it right will not be trivial. Building user experiences that scale from mobile (or watches!) to TV is complex. Building user experiences that adapt to these very different type of interactions will be hard. Matching the needs from users in a growing diversity of contexts will make us cringe. Creating user experiences that abolish the devices barrier (as I explored some months ago) is guaranteed to create more than a few headaches.

But there is unprecedented momentum to create an open platform for the planet. And that has me smiling a lot.

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Gretchen from Mean Girls.

SNL Studios

The 2004 film Mean Girls is a modern-day masterpiece, and I have been thinking about it constantly at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this week, because everywhere I turn, I feel that technology companies are channeling the spirit of Gretchen Wieners.

As part of the Plastics clique, Gretchen tried desperately to make fetch the Next Big Thing. "That's so fetch," was the ultimate in praise, to be used only to describe the coolest of the cool. Just as Queen Bee Regina George had to put Gretchen in her place and bitchily tell her, "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen. It's not going to happen," I think that the technology companies need to be told the same.

Stop trying to make "NFC" happen. It's not going to happen.

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Canonical has announced a new product called Ubuntu for Android that will bring the popular Linux distribution to high-end Android smartphones. The product consists of a complete Ubuntu desktop experience that is intended to be installed on the device alongside the standard Android environment.

Users will be able to run Ubuntu from their phone when they plug the device into a dock that connects to a keyboard and monitor. The underlying concept is similar to that of the WebTop environment that Motorola ships on the Atrix handset and other devices.

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