At its developer conference in San Francisco today, Google unveiled its new Android 2.2 mobile operating system, dubbed FroYo, and its T.-meets-Web set top box, Google TV. Though the new technologies and features were being pitched to an audience of developers, advertiser interests were frequently referenced, and new mobile ad formats were showcased.
During the presentation of the new Android platform, Google’s VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra took care to emphasize the company’s existing strengths in advertising, and consistently – but non-directly – referenced Apple’s recent movement into the mobile ad arena with its new iAd product.
“Turns out we know a little about advertising. We’re not new at this game, and we’re not working with just a handful of partners and charging a million dollars to be a part of that program,” he said. “Advertisers have different needs; local, direct response, brand. If you want to play in [the advertising] game, you need formats to meet those needs,” he continued.
The reference was a dig at Apple’s mobile ad program, which reportedly requires advertisers to pay $1 million to participate at launch.
Gundotra then detailed the mobile ad formats currently available from Google, including text ads and click-to-call ads, before unveiling a new expandable in-app rich media ad format not dissimilar to Apple’s own iAd offering. He also said a geo-location-based ad, which provides users with mapped directions and click-to-call functionality, would be available “shortly.”
Gundotra placed repeated emphasis on opening up Google’s platform, both in terms of advertiser access and to third party technologies. For example he demonstrated a rich media ad enabled by technology provider Medialets, served directly into an Android application. That type of functionality may soon be unachievable through Apple devices, for example, as that company looks to take more of its ad operations and sales in-house.
He added that the policy of openness also extends to Adobe’s Flash plug-in, and that it will be fully supported within the new FroYo Android platform. “It turns out that on the Internet, people use Flash. Part of being open means you’re inclusive, and it’s fun to work with everyone in the ecosystem to meet the needs of users,” he said.
Following the Android update portion, Google’s Rishi Chandra took to the stage to demo the company’s new Google TV product, which aims to deliver TV and web content seamlessly through a single set-top box, instead of driving multiple viewers to crowd round a laptop screen. For example, users will be able to easily search for video content across both TV channels and the web, and will also have access to full web pages on their TV, while simultaneously watching broadcast content.
Chandra suggested the functionality opened up possibilities for advertisers and marketers. “There are many times I see an interesting commercial but can’t do anything with it. Now I can just search as I continue to watch TV. Now every commercial has the potential to be interactive,” he said.
The product also has the ability to run applications while simultaneously consuming TV content, and Chandra described the possibility of watching popular live content such as American Idol, while contributing to discussions around the show on Twitter at the same time.
The hardware will be built into certain Sony TVs released later this year, and Logitech will manufacture a companion box to bring the service to existing HD TV systems. The Logitech box will include a controller that combines keyboard and remote control capabilities.
On the mobile advertising side, Google continues to await a verdict from the FTC on whether or not the agency intends to block the company’s proposed acquisition of mobile ad network AdMob. According to data from mobile ad network Millennial Media, impressions from Android devices across its network in April rose 77 percent, month-over-month, demonstrating continued growth of the platform.