I/O 2010 Day 1: WebM goes up against H.264, Wave gets opened and Adobe gets some surprise love as Google's annual developer conference kicks off.
SAN FRANCISCO: HTML5 in general, and open web video in particular, was the dominant theme during the opening keynote for the Google I/O developer conference. With a topic like that, it's no surprise that Microsoft and Apple came in for a few carefully aimed kicks. What was a little surprising? Seeing Adobe -- currently enemy #1 for almost everyone else in the web apps and standards business -- on stage, pledging its support for HTML5 and the new WebM video codec.
Aside from a preview of the Google Chrome Store and a lengthy discussion of Google App Engine for Business, the big headline news was the announcement that Google would be opening sourcing the VP8 codec it recently acquired when it purchased video specialist On2. Google will be partnering with its browser rivals Mozilla and Opera to promote the WebM standard based on VP8, effectively trying to set up a rival to the H.264 standard which currently dominates web video. Because H.264 includes patented technology and sees royalties collected for many applications, it's often viewed it as unsuitable for use as a general web standard, and it hasn't been adopted in Firefox's HTML5 implementation.
Opera will also support WebM in its browser, while Google will do its bit by adding support for the codec to its videos under its ongoing HTML5 beta project. Indeed, a slide showing supporting hardware and software partners read like a who's who of the current tech world, with the notable exceptions of Apple, Intel and Microsoft.
Shaver made a fairly explicit reference to Apple's approach to standards and deployment. "We've seen what happens when the terms of a platform change at the whims of one organisation, and the web needs to be above that," he said.
Shaver was far from alone in that approach. Google engineering VP Vic Gundotra (himself a former Microsoft employee) kicked off the mild sledging early, describing the Web as "the most important platform of our generation". Why? Because "it's a platform controlled by none of us". It was hard to see that as a reference to anything other than Apple's tightly-managed App Store, and perhaps Microsoft's now largely-abandoned attempts to treat IE6 as some sort of applications standard.
VP for product management Sundar Pichai continued the theme, showing a chart which demonstrated that by the end of the year, "all the major HTML5 APIs are going to be present in all modern browsers". That chart featured several gaps for support for HTML5 in Internet Explorer, prompting laughter and hoots of derision from the audience.
The major development on the Wave front was the announcement that Google Wave was exiting its invite-only beta program, and would now be accessible to anyone with a Google account, including those using Google Apps.
Google appears to be saving its Android announcements, expected to include the new Froyo version, for the second day of the conference. Gundotra promised "more than one surprise", while Adobe's CTO Kevin Lynch alluded to plans to show "a bunch of devices with Flash".