June has become the busiest month of the year for the mobile device operating system, with two large events, almost back-to-back, announcing new mobile platforms. Two weeks ago, Apple unveiled its iOS 6 operating system at the WWDC 2012 and the following week, Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8 together with Windows Phone 7.8 OS. Now it is Google’s turn, which is holding its annual Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco. The event starts tomorrow (27 June) and we are expecting to see another new operating system: Android Jelly Bean. ITProPortal is now rounding up all the rumours and speculation surrounding the upcoming version of the Google mobile OS.
In February this year, reports came to us that Google was planning to roll-out the next iteration of the Android operating system - rumoured to be named Jelly Bean and due for release in the second quarter of 2012. At that point, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had yet to arrive on one per cent of devices, across the entire Android range of products.
This information came from the Taiwan-based supply chain manufacturers. It was thought that Android 5.0 will be further optimised for tablet PCs, and that Google will also integrate its Chrome system functions to push dual-operating system designs. Brand vendors could choose to either adopt only Android 5.0, or add Android 5.0 to Windows 8 devices with the ability to switch between the two operating systems without the need to reboot the device.
Towards the end of February, Google's Vice President for mobile, Hiroshi Lockheimer, hinted that the next version of Android could hit the market sometime around Autumn 2012. In an interview, Lockheimer stated: "After Android 4 comes 5, and we haven't announced the timing yet, which we're still sorting out. There's a lot of engineering work behind it still, and there's also just the question of how to time it."
Lockheimer also emphasised how Google usually dishes out a new version of Android, or at least a major maintenance update towards the end of each year. He later stated that the company was flexible when it came to timing the release of its products, and instead was more focussed towards "innovation and offering users a great experience”.
These two items of news came before Mobile World Congress 2012 took place at the end of February. At this event, a number of Android Ice Cream Sandwich devices were launched, but not a great deal of future Android OS details were forthcoming. However, all these early snippets still give us an insight as to what is yet to come from Google.
Back in March, Asus confirmed that Jelly Bean was the official name of the next version of Android. This was along with hinting that it may be the first company to ship a device based on this version. Benson Lin, Corporate Vice President for Asus said in an interview: "Asus is very close to Google, so once they have Android 5.0 I think there will be a high possibility that we will be the first wave to offer the Jelly Bean update."
Google has named each new version of Android after a dessert item, starting with the next letter of the alphabet; version 1.5 was known as Cupcake, 1.6 Donut, 2.0 Éclair, 2.2 Froyo, 2.3 Gingerbread, 3.0 Honeycomb and 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Coincidentally, Asus was the first company to produce a tablet with Android Honeycomb 3.0, the first Eee Pad Transformer. This is along with being the first to get Ice Cream Sandwich on a tablet, with the Asus Transformer Prime.
In May, Google said it was planning to start selling more devices directly to customers, rather than forcing consumers to buy them from retailers and mobile phone networks. The next lot of 'lead devices' will run Android Jelly Bean, with the portfolio of products being ready for a late November release.
This new direction is based on a desire to better control the key features and applications that are run on Android smartphones and tablets. Previously, Google only paired-up with one manufacturer to create a 'lead device' for the latest release of its Android OS. Now Google will work with as many as five separate manufactures to provide a selection of "Nexus" lead devices.
The news that Asus will be developing a Nexus product and Android’s new direction is related (as already indicated by Google's announcement that a larger number of manufactures are to make Nexus devices). In the past, only two companies have produced Nexus mobile phones for Google, first HTC and then Samsung. A greater number of manufactures will offer a greater level of choice of Nexus tablets, phones, or other devices.
This month, an Asus employee confirmed that the company and Google have collaborated to develop the forthcoming Google Nexus tablet. In our article from Computex, Taipei, the unnamed Asus representative noted that the device would be launched by the end of June. This ties in with the rumours of a device launch at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. The product is likely to be a 7in tablet, manufactured by Asus, with a screen resolution of 1,280 x 768 pixels, 1GB of RAM, and an Nvidia quad-core Tegra 3 processor at its heart.
This rumour coupled with the insider information from the Asus Corporate Vice President adds more credibility to this news, along with the recently leaked images of the Google Nexus tablet.
Last week, the Android Jelly Bean release number was confirmed, but it wasn't the figure we assumed it would be. A description to an update for the Galaxy Nexus confirmed that Jelly Bean will be the next version of Android – but referred to it as version 4.1 and not 5.0, as previously suggested. A few accompanying low-quality images showed elements of the new platform, highlighting that the user interface is likely to get some minor changes, including a different background image and newly designed search bar.
This suggests, if not already confirmed by the timings of all the rumours, speculation and insider comments, that Google will unveil Android Jelly Bean tomorrow or later this week – only in version 4.1 and not the fifth iteration of the platform.
Not a great deal is known at this stage about what Android Jelly Bean will contain, but we will know more from tomorrow, 27 June, direct from the Google I/O event. As hinted, we can expect to see the Asus Nexus 7in tablet, along with more information about the search giant's augmented reality glasses and possibly a Siri-esque voice assistant.
ITProPortal.com will be live-blogging all of the happenings at the Google I/O 2012 keynote, which will take place at the Moscone Center, in San Francisco at 5:30pm BST on 27 June.
Stay tuned to ITPP for more details and content, surrounding the Google I/O event.