Google offers taste of Android Ice Cream Sandwich
Google has revealed the future of Android at a developer’s conference, including tablet-controlled home lighting, apps for TVs and USB host support.
It has also addressed one common complaint aimed at the Android platform: that handsets don’t get the latest updates quickly enough.
A new partnership with major industry players, including HTC and T-Mobile, will ensure new devices are sent the latest updates for the first 18 months – but only “if the hardware allows”.
Google revealed Android has had:
– 100m total Android activations
– 400,000 daily activations
– 200,000 apps in the Market
– 1bn app downloads in last 60 days
– 4.5bn app downloads in total
Google demoed a few new features for version 3.1, including the ability to resize apps by the user; for example, to make it easier to read long lists of emails.
The next iteration of Android also lets devices act as USB hosts, so peripherals can be hooked up directly to tablets, for example to transfer photos from cameras, or to use keyboards or game controllers.
Android 3.1 won’t be restricted to tablets and smartphones: it’s also set to arrive on Google TV this summer, bringing with it access to the Android Market. Existing Google TVs will be automatically updated to 3.1 in an over-the-air update, the company said.
Google also promised the next major version of Android, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, will arrive in the fourth quarter. The OS will run on any Android device and be entirely open source, the firm stressed. One demo showed a head-tracking system to allow 3D to be displayed accurately without glasses.
Android at Home
Google also showed off a new accessories system that will let Android devices connect to external gadgets, including exercise equipment.
Developers will be able to create the necessary software as well as hardware using new “completely open” development kits.
The accessories development kits tie into the Android at Home system, which lets devices interact with appliances and lighting. “We’d like to think of your entire home as an accessory, or a network of accessories,” said Android co-founder Joe Britt.
The system works even if appliances don’t support Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, as Google has created its own open wireless protocol for “anything electrical”. Demonstrators suggested digital light switches could add an immersive element to games, act as notifications, or be used alongside music for a rather impressive alarm clock.
The first Android-enabled light bulbs will arrive at the end of the year, Google noted.
As expected, Google also unveiled Music Beta, its cloud-based music storage service.
The system will import to the cloud all the songs and playlists from a user’s Mac or Windows computer, to be accessed anywhere over the web.
The beta is available today for US users with an invite, and the service will be free, “at least while it’s in beta”. There’s still no word if or when it will arrive in the UK.
Google also unveiled a film rental service based out of its Android Market, letting users stream or download movies to devices.