The final day of the Google I/O conference was all about the most technical talks, design sessions and several code labs. The developer sandbox (pavilion) and office hours were still available, providing plenty of opportunities to talk with interesting people.
The new Android build system looks really good. It’s based on Gradle. For many Java shops, this may be a new tool: Gradle has not been around for very long (1.0 is less than a year ago), and existing tools Ant and Maven are more popular. Just look at some of the demos though, and you’ll see that the new Android build supports much more advanced packaging, testing and code management features. It would be very hard to do this in Ant or Maven.
The best part is that the Android Studio tools will consider the Gradle build as the only source of configuration. This means you’ll always get an automated build for free, and the tools understand where all the sources are. This is amazing, and solves many problems, not just for Android development. I spoke with the founder of Gradle at the sandbox, and discussed some of the design rationale behind Gradle, and what is different from Maven or Ant. IDE integration with the build is not new, but the Android tools team and Gradle designed it in from day one, not as an afterthought.
The new Google Play Developer console features are very nice too. Test releases and staged rollouts really improves the continuous delivery story for Android. Analytics are great, especially for companies that monetize on the apps. The automated recommendations are useful: many developers just don’t take too much time reading all the best practices Google put out there, and the provided check lists will now highlight real problems for your app.
All in all, a great conference, with an inspirational audience and many, many new things to follow up back home. Hopefully, we’ll be back next year!