The amount of Android news at Google I/O 2011 was impressive. Let’s recap the most important announcements from the conference.
Alliance of hardware manufacturers and providers
This is possibly the most important news for Android users: the alliance of hardware manufactures and providers announced that new devices will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released. The alliance is “working together to adopt guidelines for how quickly devices are updated after a new platform release, and also for how long they will continue to be updated”. The participating partners are: Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Motorola and AT&T.
This is a big deal. With the exception of the Nexus phones (Nexus One, Nexus S, and Nexus S 4G) and Motorola Xoom, timely Android updates are an issue. Galaxy S owners in the US learned the hard way how long OS updates can take and any agreements that set strict guidelines are very welcomed. Until more details are available, it’s hard to say how successful this initiative will be.
Goolge Music beta
Cloud-based music service from Google opened for beta testing (US only). The service is similar to Amazon Cloud Player and allows uploading unlimited number of songs to Google’s servers and playing them back on any computer or Android device. The service is free during beta period and invitations can be requested here. The service is optimized for offline use: recently played music automatically stored to the device and users can make specific albums or playlists available offline. As opposed to Amazon offering which allows purchasing songs from its MP3 store, Google Music doesn’t have a music store.
Movie rental service Google Movies went live and is now a part of Android Market (US only). Movie rental starts at $1.99 and is available for Android 3.1 only. Support for Android 2.2 and above is expected to roll out soon. After renting a movie, users have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours to watch it once playback starts. Movies can be streamed or downloaded to the device for watching offline.
The goal of the home automation project Android@Home is to move Android OS beyond phones, tablets and TVs and control any electrical device in the home: light bulbs, light switches, washing machines, speakers, thermostats, etc. New Android Open Accessory protocol and development kit allow hardware accessories to work with Android devices. All components of the Android Open Accessory Development Kit are available for download:
The Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) provides an implementation of an Android USB accessory that is based on the Arduino open source electronics prototyping platform, the accessory’s hardware design files, code that implements the accessory’s firmware, and the Android application that interacts with the accessory. The hardware design files and firmware code are contained in the ADK package download.
As a demo, project Tungsten was previewed which creates distributed audio solution similar to Sonos ZonePlayer.
Honeycomb 3.1 update
Android 3.1 update includes numerous bug fixes and performance improvements, resizable widgets, full support for Adobe Flash player 10.2 and most importantly, USB Host support. USB devices such as keyboards, game controllers, mice, video cameras and others can now interface Android devices. During one of the demos XBox 360 game controller was used to play games on the Motorola Xoom tablet. The update already rolled out to Motorola Xoom.
Google TV will get updated with Honeycomb 3.1 and will then get an Android Market.
During fireside chat with the Android team, Dan Morrill acknowledged that there are no plans to open source either Android 3.0 or 3.1.
Future Android releases
Next major Android release is scheduled for Q4 and will be called Ice Cream Sandwich. It has an ambitious goal of merging Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) into one OS that works on all Android devices: phones, tablets and TVs.
All Google I/O sessions are online
All Google I/O 2011 sessions are available in HD on youtube. Keynote on the first day of the conference was dedicated solely to Android:
P.S. Few pictures from the conference by Tim Bray.