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Android has a sweet and sour tooth (cupcake, donut, éclair, ice cream sandwich, jelly bean now key lime pie). What can we expect from the world’s most pervasive smartphone, tablet and internet of everything operating system?

(thanks to Manu Cornet for this photo – Google employee).

Google will likely be taste testing Key Lime Pie (Android 5.0) at its Google I/O conference, May 15-17 in San Francisco. Don’t try and get a seat – it is long sold out.

The conference has several streams: Android OS; apps; Chrome OS; search engine features (Google Now, Google +, Google Docs); and Android hardware a.k.a. new Nexus based kit, media streaming (Google TV), Google Tablet and Google Glass (which has already been threatened to be banned by authorities while driving)...

Key Lime Pie (Android 5.0 or KLP) launch date is rumored to be Q2, 2013 but that does not mean it will be released into the wild – we expect Q3 or later.

ARM processor licensees (like Qualcomm) have hinted at a new ARM processor optimized for KLP but so far unless it’s the one to be used in the Galaxy S4 all we know is that it KLP will need a quad core and graphics processor unit (APQ8084 2.3 GHZ and Adreno 420 GPU has been mentioned) to get the best – KLP will need more grunt than Android 4.X.

That raises the issues of backwards compatibility and I expect that it will be designed to run on all “new” devices drawing a line in the sand for support of most existing devices. But equally there are rumours of (a) Samsung Galaxy Note II and 10.1, S3 and S4 being compatible – these are Knox compatible handsets) and (b) of a KLP “’Lite” version for older devices that support legacy hardware. 

The first major rumour is that KLP will be much more ‘capable’ on a range of devices up to notebooks and possibly ARM based desktops (which means that)

(a)    it will support larger, Hi-res HD screens and second screens,

(b)   more WiDI or Airplay or DLNA capability to display the device screen on a wireless connected smart TV

(c)    Increased ram and storage capability (to get serious in the enterprise space)

(d)   Thin client or Chrome OS like capabilities (may spell the end of separate Chrome OS development).

(e)   Based on Linux 3.8 Kernel that uses less ram, is faster and supports better multitasking.

(f)     There will be more modes – gaming, reading, blocking (airplane mode plus other options), deep battery saving and other performance modes, some of which will be automatically selected by the gyro and light sensors to improve battery life when not in use or overnight.

This rumour is significant for two reasons – access to Android apps (700,000+ and 25+ billion downloads) could be a major tablet/desktop driver in the enterprise space and it explains why traditional Windows manufacturers like Acer, HP, Asus and others are paddling in the Android tablet and notebook market – to gain some street cred there for other form factors.



 

The second major rumour is that the user interface created by Bob Freking is very fracking different from Jelly Bean’s Holo Dark theme. Fonts will also be improved for a cleaner look. Notification bar will be more friendly and I suspect the patent laws are driving a new look that can’t possibly infringe Apple, Microsoft or BlackBerry desktop and mobile user interfaces (Apple says it has patented every possible gesture and then some – see you in courtJ).

The third major rumour is significant work is being done on the keyboard interface. Again I don’t see what is left to do there apart from Swype style typing and freehand and vector line drawing and more stylus support - but it could also relate to simply making it more keyboard and mouse friendly. 

 

Now to some minor rumours

I suspect we will also see Chrome Browser take a more important poll position as the default browser – even though Apple and Microsoft got into strife with making Safari and Internet Explorer the default in their OS. Chrome may well be part of the new Freking interface and used as a ‘container’ for more apps to run in (think thin client again). Better Flash support would be mandatory.

Security remains the biggest Achilles heel for Android – it is an eminently hackable OS and prime target. All this means is that more effort will go into both protection and recovery (one button reinstall and sandboxed data storage).

Via Google’s cloud the facility to swap from one Android device to another i.e. start watching TV on your smart phone, swap to your desktop and then finish on your tablet (Windows 8 has this).

Similarly better integration of all messaging in a BlackBerry like Hub – all in one place to reduce clicks.

Video chat will be enhanced with picture in picture (an LG feature already) where both cameras can work at the same time.

A multiple add and manage contact system is slated to allow for group emailing – even if it is only a check box system.

Better local dictionary support

Better HTML5 support (via Chrome browser)

Integration of a lot of customization and skin features from handset makers – as Android is open source all these features are available to Google to include in future iterations. Work done by Samsung or LG on eye movement tracking or camera control may be part of KLP.

Opinion

Android is a success story that nearly matches iOS with one difference – its largely open source. KLP is significant as it heralds the move of ARM processing into the desktop and corporate market and the time may well be right to offer alternatives to Windows and OS X (and Linux). This however could only happen when internet connectivity is ubiquitous and cheap and we are still a reasonable way from that.

But as reported here Google cannot hold onto Android – it is a child that is growing up and will soon have a mind of its own. SamDroid, Tizen, Ubuntu and more mobile variants will eventually take hold as the handset manufacturers seek to differentiate their offerings yet remain largely compatible with Android apps (where the real money is).

Interesting times indeed.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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