Seven things Google is doing to please developers

At its I/O keynote, Google did its best to get developers excited about building apps for Android with new tools and money-making schemes. But Google is also expanding support for developers who'd rather create iOS apps.

Google hasn't always been the best partner a developer could have, but this year's I/O conference is showing how that's changing with better developer tools and services. Here are some of the most important ones announced by the company during the opening keynote.

Android Studio gets C/C++ support

Google launched a preview of Android Studio version 1.3, which includes some useful features. The most notable addition to the IDE is code editing and debugging for C and C++. This means Java and C/C++ code support is integrated into one environment free of charge for Android app developers, letting them choose between the two languages. The implementation is based on the JetBrains Clion platform, and the Google NDK (native development kit) plugin provides features such as error correction and code completion. Version 1.3 also offers faster build speeds and a new memory profile.

Polymer 1.0 released to help create web apps

An important part of Google's current developer strategy is to make it easier for developers to build better Web apps, and the release of version 1.0 of the Polymer library is meant to do that. Polymer is made up of elements that can be used by developers to add features such as tool bars, offline caching and menus, and services such as Google Maps. Chrome 36 is the first browser to include all of the platform features Polymer depends on natively, but the library is also meant to work with the most recent versions of Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. Developers that want use library can head over to the Polymer Catalog, which includes over 80 elements. There is also a guide for how to use them.

Faster app testing with Cloud Test Lab

During the keynote Google made an effort to make the wide variety of Android-based devices out there seem like an advantage. But for developers it makes testing apps really challenging. To help, Google announced Cloud Test Lab, which will automate testing. Apps are uploaded to the service and tested against the top 20 Android-based devices from around the world. Developers get a free report that includes screen videos and crash logs. The service will be added to the Play Developer Console before the end of August. It's based on technology from Google's acquisition of Appurify.

Better marketing with Universal App Campaigns

The announcements at I/O were meant to help developers make more money once they're done building an app, as well. With Universal App Campaigns, Google is aiming to make it easier to market apps across search, AdMob, Youtube and using a new type of search ads the company is piloting in Google Play. The developer decides the budget, and Google sets up an automated campaign. The feature will become available in the Play Developer Console and on AdWords in a few months.

Experiment with Play store listings to attract more users

Google is bringing A/B testing to Play store app listings, to help developers compare different graphical and text presentations of their apps and see which one drives the most downloads. Related to this change is the ability to see how many users are looking at a listing and making purchases in the Play Developer Console, in addition to the number of installs. Developers that have multiple apps can now create a Play home page, where they can explain what their company is about and pick a special app to feature.

Expanded support for iOS

One thing Google came back to on several occasions was expanded support for Apple's iOS. Developers can now access the tools it offers for the OS via CocoaPods, which has become the official distribution channel for Google SDKs on iOS. Using CocoaPods simplifies the process of importing libraries and frameworks into Apple's XCode IDE, according to Google. Other announcements included the indexing of iOS apps so they can show up in search results, support for the Cloud Messaging service and compatibility with the Google Cardboard SDK.

Google may not be as wedded to the idea of offering cross-platform support as Microsoft, but the company is moving more in that direction. With the success of the iPhone 6, Apple has been gaining smartphone market share and is therefore becoming even more important for Google.

Learn to code for Android from the ground up

Google is hoping to attract more people that can build applications for its operating system. The company has worked with Udacity to put together an Android Nanodegree. The curriculum covers everything from fundamentals to advanced development skills, as well as Google Play services and Material Design. Participants should have at least one year of experience in Java or another object-oriented programming language before enrolling. The course costs US$200 per month and takes 9 to 12 months to complete assuming a minimum workload of 10 hours per week.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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