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AndroidTO proves there's serious buzz about Android

It was the tech event of the month on Tuesday as the Android community descended on 99 Sudbury to learn, debate and discuss all things Android. Twelve months is a long time in the tech world and this time last year the world's most widely adopted mobile platform was still playing second fiddle versus the more sexy iOS. Not any more. While iOS might still have the savvy marketing of Apple fueling its buzz (and usage), Android powered devices now account for more than half of all smartphone sales south of the border.

If there's proof in Toronto of Android's rise it's that AndroidTO drew 300% more attendees this year compared to the inaugural conference in 2010 (about 620 vs. 225). Of this, about half the tickets sold were to non-developers indicating that entrepreneurs, marketers and other business types are paying closer attention to the platform.

Accordingly, AndroidTO was split into two streams: the professional track and the developer track. Highlights included much talk about Near Field Communication (NFC) which holds the promise of making wide adoption of mobile payments a reality; as well as a packed room discussing how to make money from mobile apps. Paired with sponsors like Rogers and Sony showcasing some of the latest Android devices there was plenty to look forward to in the months ahead.

After the conference I caught up with Paul Crowe, CEO of BNOTIONS (the company that puts on the event) about the state of Android in Toronto. Here's what he had to say.

What's the current state of the Android community in Toronto?

The Android developer community is still smaller in Toronto than the iOS community, but it is growing as fast, if not faster than Android's marketshare. I wouldn't be surprised if they were 90% there if not the same size this time next year.

The large turn-out from students on the developer side just goes to show where the next generation of developers' interest lies. In the past year since the previous event, the community has grown dramatically in size as well as strength. Events like the Google Technology User Group (GTUG) hosted by the Yorkville Media Centre have seen their turn-out growing and the actual community being created around Android is impressive. In one week we had over 50 volunteers reach out and offer their time for free, just to be a part of the event.

There was some talk at the conference about future Android devices that extend beyond the smartphone and tablet (ie. refrigerators, washing machines). I feel like I've been hearing this sort of vision of the future for at least the last 10 years. Why do you feel this is finally going to become a reality?

Samsung and Google have made a big deal of this in 2011. Google had demos and presentations at Google IO showing how Android enabled appliances can be controlled by an Android tablet or phone and Samsung has focused on their home automation in a number of demos and talks. Essentially your tablet and phone become the universal remote for large parts of your home - from HVAC to lighting, to stoves and washing machines.

What's great about Android and why this may finally actually happen is that consumers who have an Android Phone don't need to purchase another remote control or device. If they are already in the market for an appliance, have the phone and are comfortable with applications, then the consumer adoption of the technology should encounter little resistance.

I know you're still digesting this year's conference, but if you had to predict what AndroidTO would look like next year at this time what do you think would have changed over the next 365 days?

I truly believe that Android in the home technology will be launched and that we will have elements of this within the conference, but I'll predict the biggest change will be that the conversations around NFC will be less around "What is possible with NFC" and more around "What is being done with NFC".

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