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AnDevCon II: Less hectic and more focused than Google I/O

Android developer William Francis shares his impressions of AnDevCon II, including which keynotes and courses he found most engaging and practical.

AnDevCon II bills itself as a technical conference for software developers who are building Android apps. The event was held in San Francisco last week, and I was fortunate enough to be there. This was my first time at AnDevCon, and since the last Android-related conference I attended was Google I/O, fair or not, I found myself comparing the two.

While AnDevCon II lacked the budget Google I/O has to shower attendees with geek-centric goodies, AnDevCon was tightly focused on all things related to Android development. Each day boasted a full schedule of Android workshops. In any given time slot, one could find courses for beginning, intermediate, and advanced developers.

Keynotes

There were five keynotes in all. Particularly engaging was the one by Google's Chet Haase and Romain Guy. The duo demonstrated ice-cream sandwich on a real device and spent a lot of time talking about some the UI goodies. The two couldn't say enough about the new grid layout, and I look forward to treating TechRepublic readers with a tutorial on this Android 4.0 feature in the near future. (Note: The source code for Android 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich and Android 3.x Honeycomb has been released.)

Another keynote that I found equally as interesting, while maybe not as entertaining, was given by Amazon's Sam Gigliotti. His presentation went pretty in depth into the challenges faced by Amazon when engineering the Kindle Fire. The talk covered not just designing the platform, but also the web services and backend infrastructure.

Courses

While some speakers were naturally more charismatic than others, most of the courses I attended were right on target for a room full of developers. Some of the courses that stood out to me were those focusing on tablet UI components given by author/developer Donn Felker and the courses on tuning your application given by author/developer Mark Murphy (whom I recently interviewed about app testing best practices). Mark's course was so popular they had to open up two adjacent rooms to seat everyone, and I still saw a few folks standing in the back.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Nathan Mellor's marketing crash course. I hope Nathan won't take offense when I say that he is not a natural public speaker. That's okay. He still came across as relatable and having a good sense of humor. I attended a couple of the app marketing courses during the conference, and Nathan's talk was the only one that felt practical. It was obvious he was talking from firsthand experience and not just repeating something he'd read in a book, and the other attendees I spoke to agreed his course really stood out.

Exhibit Hall

One of the things I most look forward to at any conference is the vendor exhibit hall, and AndDevCon II did not disappoint. There were a large number of vendors doing show-and-tell, and perhaps two of the most aggressive were Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both of which were recruiting hard for developers on their respective platforms. Hardware vendors such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson were represented with plenty of hands-on opportunities for developers, and publishers such as Apress and O'Reilly were on hand showcasing upcoming and newly released Android titles.

Facilities

The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, California (just south of San Francisco). The conference rooms were adequate. The layout tended to work better for the smaller classes, whereas large classes and keynotes were a bit of a squeeze. There was a negotiated rate for attendees who stayed at the Hyatt. The hotel provided transportation to and from the airport. Registering with the conference also got you breakfast, lunch, and in-room Wi-Fi.

The hotel had a lot of amenities you might not find at other places, including a small convenient store, a fitness center, a coffee shop that served sandwiches and pastries, a full sports bar and grill, and a decent sit-down restaurant. On one hand, it was nice to have everything right there. On the other hand, it also gave the hotel a bit of a monopoly. A can of soda set you back $3 bucks, and the convenient store attempted to extort $5.50 out of me for a tube of toothpaste.

Final thoughts

There are a growing number of Android conferences aimed at developers looking to sharpen their skill set or bone up on the latest technologies, and before choosing AndDevCon II, I did a fair bit of research. While the conference wasn't perfect, I left feeling the time and money spent was productive. I'd recommend it to other developers who like me are looking for a conference that is a little less hectic and more focused than Google I/O.

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About

William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intellige...

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