Several months ago we had a very interesting talk from Roberto Calvo, member of the GSyC/LibreSoft and the development group of LibreGeoSocial, a FLOSS mobile platform which integrates social features and augmented reality. He made us a great introduction to Android, the Open Source and Linux Kernel based software stack for mobile devices. As it’s well known, Google is the flag supporting company (along with the Open Handset Alliance) of this project since they bought Android Inc, the original developer company.

Since Google acquisition and the release of the first Android device (the HTC G1 smartphone, just in US and just on one carrier), Android market share has been rising every month, in a hard battle with Apple’s iPhones. When we attended Roberto’s talk (in Q4 2010), Android market shared has raised from 2,8% (in Q2 2009) to 33%, becoming the most selling mobile platform. I was interested in knowing the current share rate and I got some updated figures at the Google I/O event in May, 2011 and the last Nielsen US in April, 2011 survey:

  • 100 million activated Android devices
  • 400,000 new Android devices activated every day
  • 200,000 free and paid applications available in Android Market
  • 4.5 billion applications installed from Android Market

These figures show Android as the most used mobile device platform, ten points ahead Apple’s iOS. As Roberto told us, Android excedded iOS in 2010 for the first time and it seems that this trend is going on. It has been a huge growth in barely three years.

I think it’s not just a Google or corporate success, it also belongs to the wide developing community and user ecosystem that has been built around the Android project in those three years. But as Roberto early noticed and I have seen in recent readings, developers are facing a big problem that could harm the good figures evolution and it comes from inside the project nature itself: the platform fragmentation

There are hundreds of Android devices, firmwares, OEM distributions and so on (and its combinations). It can be a nightmare for any developer to get sure that his software is going to work as intended. And if developers are not comfortable with a platform or final users are not happy with glitched apps or non supported device features, both could move to another platform which makes their lives easier…

Google (as the flag developers) knows it very well. And in the last Google I/O event in May, 2011 they showed a very ambitious upcoming solution: Ice Cream Sandwich. It was announced as “One OS that runs everywhere.”. The starting point is to melt Android Honeycomb (from tablets) and Android Gingerbread (from smartphones) into a single multipurpose system, running on current generation hardware and it would be released in Q4 2011. If you already think it sounds very promising, keep reading because it could become even better.

When they say “runs everywhere” they mean that it could run in the future in ANY kind of device, including smartphones, tablets, notebooks, embedded systems, home devices, cars, televisions… even custom built devices; check the full keynote coverage for some feature description and demos. And, of course, it would be fully Open Source.

Google didn’t offered many details about Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is a work in progress and it won’t be availiable until the end of the year. But if it is released as they promised it won’t be just a solution for the Android fragmentation (joining current smartphones and tablets OS), it would be one of the most remarked releases from Google’s history and a milestone in the upcoming device (of any kind) automation. We’ll have to wait some months in order to see if it’s really as promising as they noticed. Developers hope so.

Me too!


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