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Google updates Android, makes it more universal

Posted: 12 May 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Android environment? Ice Cream Sandwich? open source?

At its annual developers' conference, Google Inc. outlined its plans to pull together separate versions of its Android environment and extend the software to support USB. Support for tablet, smartphone, and television versions of Android will come together in a so-called Ice Cream Sandwich version of the software to be released as open source code in the fourth quarter.

The current Honeycomb version 3.0 for tablets and a 3.1 upgrade due within weeks will not be made available as open source. GoogleTV client software will continue to be a separate variant of Android, but starting this summer apps developed for it will become available in the public Android apps market online.

"We want one OS that runs everywhere, and we want to insulate developers from differences in devices," says Mike Cherod, a Google developer working on Ice Cream Sandwich, alluding to additional tools to be announced at the Google I/O event.

Google has released eight versions of Android in two and a half years. It is currently being used on 310 different devices and was activated on 100 million phones in 2011 with activations tracking at 400,000 a day, said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management in a Google I/O keynote.

Google angered OEMs by refusing to release as open source its Honeycomb software for tablets. In addition, earlier this year, it re-tooled plans for GoogleTV software announced at an event in the past.

Separately, Google announced an alliance of more than a dozen partners that will define a standard plan for upgrading devices in the field to bring greater unity to the Android market. The group includes AT&T, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Verizon, and Vodaphone. They have initially pledged to make any Android upgrades available on devices in the field for the first 18 months after their purchase.

In addition, Google announced new streaming video and music services for Android devices, based on Google cloud services.

USB support for Android

Google will support USB for the first time on the next version of its software for tablets, Honeycomb 3.1, and the smartphone version, Gingerbread 2.3.4. The support includes a new Open Accessory API which includes USB support libraries from Google.

Android is unusual in that it is defined as a device, not a host environment under Linux. Thus Android USB accessories will technically be USB hosts. The Google libraries aim to smooth over that distinction for developers.

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