Google is racing to release the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, this fall, Chairman Eric Schmidt said at last week’s Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference.
Blog Android and Me reported Schmidt’s comments, which came on stage but apparently were more slip of the tongue than outright announcement. Nonetheless, it’s the first confirmation of an Ice Cream time frame: “We have a new operating system, internally known as Ice Cream Sandwich for some reason, which is being released in October/November, which everyone's really excited about,” Schmidt said.
If that time frame holds, the likely sequence of events includes the Ice Cream SDK appearing by early October and the first Ice Cream device, likely the Samsung Nexus Prime, arriving in late November or early December, right in time for the holiday season.
The major goal of Ice Cream Sandwich – originally announced at Google I/O earlier this summer – is to build an OS that runs equally on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and even entertainment devices. That’s in stark contrast to recent Android releases, like Honeycomb (3.0), which was designed to get Android tablets quickly up to snuff, while other releases including Froyo (2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) targeted smartphones.
While fragmentation has always been a concern in the Android community, the platform does seem to be settling out these days around 2.2 (a fairly major upgrade) and 2.3 (a tweaky release). Google tracks platform percentages that visit Android Market. According to GigaOm, Google reported that in the two weeks prior to Sept. 2, 81.9% of Android users were running Android 2.2 or 2.3, with only 2.8% still running Android 1.5 or 1.6.
So at least for smartphones, fragmentation may be disappearing. But as Android gets on more different types of devices, tablets obviously first, but also (Google hopes) on TV-attached devices, Ice Cream Sandwich will be key in ensuring a common experience across all of them.