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Google I/O: What Recession?

Google offers software developers an abundance of amenities at its annual conference.

The second annual Google I/O conference, an event that brings together thousands of people who write software for the Web using Google’s wares, kicked off today in San Francisco. And here at Moscone West where the event is held, there’s no sign of an economic recession.

As I write this, I’m sitting in one of many beanbag chairs scattered throughout the center. To my right is a foosball table, and down the hall people are playing pool and Guitar Hero. There are bins of candy and other bite-sized snacks. Coffee and soda is flowing. Breakfast consisted of tables of pastries, cakes, fruit, granola and yogurt. There were a number of lunch options, and all were fresh and appetizing. There are free t-shirts and to top it off, all attendees get an unlocked HTC Magic (G2) phone running the Android operating system, complete with a SIM card offering a month of free service.

It feels like a little piece of the famously extravagant Google campus moved up 101 into San Francisco.

By comparison, most conferences I’ve recently attended have been drab. They have the obligatory coffee and lunches, and sometimes a tote bag, but not much more. Even at Apple’s developer conference (coming up June 8-15) the handouts are usually sparse. But it’s clear by the amenities at Google I/O, which costs $400 to attend, that the search company is actively courting its developers.

It makes sense for companies like Google to invest in its developers: they can quickly and cheaply churn out software that propels Google’s brand forward. When a developer creates an Android application or an add-on for the Chrome browser that becomes popular, it extends Google’s reach. Loyal developers are good for Google’s business. According to Vic Gundotra, VP of Engineering at Google, developers are the “hub of innovation.” So even in an economic downturn, it’s a smart investment to spend money on the people who make the apps. “If we’re going to see breakthrough apps it’s going to happen with these developers,” Gundotra says.

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