Turn down the volume
In this model, Google concedes that nothing will top last year's parachute stunt, so instead it opts to make a more cerebral, quieter impression with a provocative glimpse of the future. In other words: Good-bye, Fear Factor, and hello, Science Channel.
"If I were Google, I wouldn't have a big, showy stunt-type event because people's expectations are already set very high," says Rita Gunther McGrath, a Columbia Business School professor who has also done strategy consulting for Microsoft and Nokia. "What you might want is more of a 'gee-whiz, wow, look how this impacts everyday life' event--like something demonstrating the driverless car. It would leave an equally strong impression, but it wouldn't be a physical stunt."
Could a full-size driverless car wind its way to the keynote podium? Probably not (and, to be clear, that's not what McGrath is suggesting). But how about a fleet of driverless golf carts zipping across the footpaths of Moscone Center throughout the three-day event? Lucky attendees would jump in a cart, slip on the Glass headset that's tethered to the dash, and then stream their adventures to a Google Hangout. In one fell swoop, Google could show us how distracted-driver laws will become obsolete--because if you're not actually driving, you don't have to worry about using a cell phone, let alone Glass.
We'd still be talking about those golf carts in 2014. In his Wired interview, Pichai said of I/O, "We will show how Google services are doing amazing things." Driverless golf carts: amazing. My fingers: crossed.
The rock-star moment
Who would be a better get than Fred Armisen? Arguably, a mainstream recording artist whose reach stretches from Entertainment Tonight to People to TMZ.
Sure, the thousands of nerds attending Google's keynote might prefer the meta self-reflexivity of watching another nerd--and Fred Armisen is nothing if not nerdy--but citizens of the real world would rather see Rihanna slink and slither onstage.
And Rihanna wouldn't even have to jump out of a lighter-than-air craft. She and her dancers could just slide on 20 copies of Google Glass, and then let the I/O event producers edit the year's soon-to-be-most-popular concert video in real time.
The real beauty of this stunt is that it would one-up Apple, which has a history of showcasing musical acts at its product-launch events, including U2 in 2004, John Mayer in 2007, and Foo Fighters in 2012. But whereas Apple merely propped up rock stars onstage, leading to tepid and contrived corporate theater, Google has an opportunity to let Rihanna (or whomever it might get) truly shine in larger-than-life megastar fashion. And that would make Google the boss.
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