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Google I/O: The Next Android OS--Google Donut, Looks Tasty

Today marks the end of Google's I/O developer conference. Just days shy of Apple's own WWDC, which kicks off next week, Google took the opportunity to tell us two things: Android 2 is going to be killer, and Google will pay you $100,000 to develop a cool app for it. Oh, and if you give out free, unreleased Android phones, attendees will put them on eBay with remarkable alacrity. (Alright, three things.) If you want a proper intro, check out the opening keynote below.

The latest update to Google Android just came out three days ago, and as ecstatic as G1 users were to get their hands on version 1.5 (dubbed "Cupcake"), they'll be even more delirious when they see the kind of slickery baked into version 2.0, (dubbed "Donut"). Donut has a powerful system-wide search called Android Search that allows you to query the Web as well as all the data on your phone (contacts, calendar, photos, songs) from one discreet little search box.

As with Google's Voice Search, you can speak a search query into the phone to get results too. Better yet: the text-to-speech API that makes that possible will be available to developers, which could prompt a flurry of speech-activated apps on the Android Marketplace. Also cool is the ability to narrow search results with a handwriting gesture—make an "e" across the screen with your finger, for example, and you'll skip to the corresponding letter an in alphabetized group of items.

Also on display at I/O was the second annual Android Developer Challenge, a cash contest that smacks of Chevy-style desperation. If Apple's iPhone was the first-in-the-game Prius, well, Android is going to have to build a hell of a Chevy Volt to catch up, so taking meliorative action that only Google could, throwing wads of cash at the problem.

The ADC2 has categories for 10 types of apps. Android users will have the option of participating in the contest as judges, getting access sometime in August to a bevy of entrant apps to test and rate. The top 20 apps, after the first round of user voting, will then go to Google's judges, who Google says will make the final decision.

What's in it for devs? Well, for each category, the top prize is a whopping $100,000; second and third place aren't too shabby either, with $50,000 and $25,000 up for grabs respectively. Overall winners across categories will get $150,000 for first place, $50k for second and $25k for third. Google implies that the overall winner will be a first-place category winner by nature, meaning that a winning developer can walk away with a cool quarter million. (Apple has iPhone developer prizes too, but nothing approaching that kind of prize purse.) Winners will be announced in November.

Developers attending I/O were given a new HTC Magic, the second Android device from HTC (and the second in existence) since the G1. By early this morning, at least one enterprising attendee had tossed his on eBay, looking for a $1,000 payout. Classy!

There was one decidedly lower tech announcement at I/O: the vanilla-named Google Web Elements. The service features embeddable widgets for your site or blog, that enables you to implant various Google Web apps with a simple string of HTML. This is hardly brain surgery—and arguably should have been offered back before Twitter and Tumblr stole the blogging spotlight. Ironically, the most interesting one is the Google Docs Element, which lets you embed documents and presentations in your site, and is a hell of a lot more convenient than other methods of document-posting. Other Elements announced so far: Maps (snore), News, YouTube news, Spreadsheets, and begs-for-spam "Conversation," a commenting widget.

Also on the schedule: a demo of Google Latitude on iPhone OS 3.0, and some nerdily wonderful previews of Google Web Toolkit 2.0 and Android's app engine for Java.

For more on Google I/O news, check back with by the end of today, Thursday, May 28. At the conference as we write this? Feel free to toss in a little description of the milieu in the comments below.

[Donut dirt via Engadget]

[Official announcements via Google Code Blog]

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