Google launched its Google IO developer conference in 2008, when it was gearing up to tackle the mobile phone industry. The company had acquired Andy Rubin's company, Android Inc., in 2005, and was preparing to bring the OS to market. It needed a legion of informed and excited developers. The 2008 Google IO conference charged up the audience for Android, but there was a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem for the new operating system. Nobody had the hardware.
By the time the 2009 Google IO conference came around, there was still only one Android phone on the market, the G1, with its odd, switchblade keyboard. Google needed to amp up the excitement among developers more. At the 2009 conference, the company launched what became an annual treat: its developer giveaway program.
Google gave Google IO-branded Ion phones out to all attendees. The Ion, later renamed the Magic, was the first Android phone running the 1.5 (Cupcake) operating system.
Google upped its game in 2010, sending developers, shortly ahead of the conference, a Nexus One or a Droid. And then at the conference, Google handed every developer an HTC Evo 4G, the first 4G US phone.
With Android well established in 2011, Google turned its promotional attention for the conference that year to tablets and to Chrome. At the conference, every attendee got a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a Verizon 4G LTE hotspot with pre-paid service. Attendees also received, a few weeks after the show, a nice new Samsung Chromebook in the mail.
So what does Google's inner Oprah have in store for the 2012 Google IO conference that opens on June 27?
It's a safe bet that the expected Google-branded tablet will be under the metaphorical chairs. Google needs developers to love its Android tablets, and the best way to build a successful tablet, the industry now seems to be saying, is for the platform companies to do it themselves. (See also: Microsoft Surface.)
Will Google have more surprises for Google IO attendees? Google Glasses, perhaps? We'll have a full team report, including live blogs of the keynotes on both Wednesday and Thursday. Stay tuned.