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Summary:

Android 2.2 is just rolling out to the Nexus One, yet talk of the next version is already ramping up. A Russian podcast shared details about Android 3.0, dubbed Gingerbread, and it looks like Google may be moving to take more control over the platform.

Gingerbread Man side

Android 2.2 is only just rolling out to the Nexus One, yet talk of the next big version is already ramping up. A Russian podcast shared details about Android 3.0, dubbed Gingerbread, and it looks like Google may be moving to take more control over the platform. The primary change to appear in Gingerbread involves Google’s locking down the use of special interfaces. This will directly impact HTC and Samsung, as both companies have developed interfaces designed to make operation easier while providing a level of brand awareness for their respective phones. Will either company choose to stick with version 2.2 that allows these interfaces?

The success of Android is evident in the number of handsets already on the market and the future models no doubt in the production phase. The proliferation of Android phones makes it more difficult for phone makers to make their own handsets stand out from the crowd. HTC is the largest maker of phones using the platform, and its HTC Sense interface is a firm effort to create brand awareness for the company’s phone line. Samsung is gearing up to hit the U.S. market with six different Android phones in its Galaxy S line, and the TouchWiz interface is the key feature on these phones to make them stand out.

Android 3.0 is expected to be released near the end of the year, and will require some high-end hardware components. According to the report a 1 GHz CPU will be the slowest permitted, and while a 3.5-inch display will be the smallest allowed a higher resolution (1280×760) will be created for screens larger than 4 inches. That sounds an awful lot like an Android tablet.

If Android 3.0 does restrict the use of custom interfaces like Sense and TouchWiz by locking down the standard interface across the board, will these companies decide to stick with earlier versions of the OS? This would insure the investment in the interfaces — and the brand awareness each brings to the table — can stick around for a while longer. It is not clear how else phones can be produced that have a uniqueness in such a crowded playing field. Google may have to rethink the interface lockdown, and at least compromise for its major handset partners.

  1. Of course I cant be sure but I do imagine Google will leave some ways of letting manufactures customize their devices but it may be more akin to skinning them than making complete custom interfaces. Between a skin and custom widgets (friendstream for example) I think there will still be plenty of places for each manufacturer to differentiate themselves in the market.

    You can also look at this is Google trying to make this easier for them to upgrade by making it take less work to ready the custom interfaces for later versions to reduce the delay between a new version of Android and it getting put on devices and increase the likelihood of older devices getting an upgrade due to less work on the manufactures part to backport it. This might also lead to less of the “Oh the device is a year old…lets stop supporting it with new versions” stuff(looking at you Samsung).

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  2. But Google hasn’t confirmed or even indicated that Gingerbread is un-skinable. Think about all the launcher apps that totally revamp the way Android looks that reside on The Market. Google has allowed them to exist, and encourages them. All of Android OS is opensource. It has been, it is, and it will contonue to be so. As such, anyone can take Android and skin it how they want. And is the need for hardware requirements surprising at all at this point? Really? Even now, the possibilties of the G1 ever getting anything higher than what its at officially is limited by its hardware. Because of limited ROM and RAM. The more sophisticated the OS becomes, the faster the hardware needs to be. This is the same thing that has happened with Intel Processors and Windows. The hardware would innovate, and the software would have to catch up, and then the software would innovate, forcing the hardware to play catch up. This will forever be the role of software and hardware. As things change, as Android, or iOS or webOS grow up, they will always require better hardware. Its easy to sit back and moan and groan and point fingers but that’s how it is. Simple as that. So instead, let’s sit back, and look forward to Google trying not to ban companies from molding android, but to make it so they don’t really have to. That’s what openess is about. Choices. How many phone publishers out there won’t put Android on their phones simply because stock android can be intimidating to figure out, and because they don’t have either the know how or the resources to skin it like Sammy and HTC and regrettably Motorola have done? Its a smart business move on googles part. Its time to put that the new guy to work (here’s looking at you Palm UI guy) so that he can make Android as naturally polished in its Vanilla flavor as rival OS’ UI’s are (again iOS and webOS have long established themselves on ease of use and polish). You could also look at it this way: In each subsequent version of android, more and more features and functionality were tossed in that OTHER COMPANIES DID FIRST. What am I talking about? Well when android 1.5, or cupcake was released, HTC released the HERO. One of its (if not its first) phones with Sense UI overlayed on top. Gorgeous gorgeous sense! And it had the ability to sync facebook contacts with your phones contacts! Later the palm pre comes out, and its webOS features Synergy, which seamlessly melds all of its dedicated sources into one cohesive glossary. Your contacts had facebook info, yahoo info, and google contacts info. Then 2.0 is released with the droid. It begins to feature the very same concept, natively adding the ability to pull peoples facebook info into your contacts. Did people scream and shout: HTC did it first! Your making them useless! Your locking them out! No. You know why? Because google natively adding this functionality allows HTC to focus on other aspects of their UI, leading us to amazing innovation the the Leap screen and fully interactive widgets. The more google adds into Android, the more they continue to streamline the experience, the less companies like HTC and Sammy have to worry about. They focus their energies into making their phones stand out in more meaningful ways. Like HTC and their amazing widgets. Or Samsungs take on what a launcher should be, and how the notification shade should function (kudos to them on that too, cause android has needed that functionality since its release). Android will never lock down. It will always be open. Don’t stifle it from growing though. Allow it to blossom, and let other capitalize on its sucess and fine tune or add what they want. In the end, that’s what’s best for everyone.

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    1. I chose not to read this rant, but the first sentence is spot on. The article starts out with “Gingerbread will lock down customization” to “If there is a lock down.” So, which is it? And why start your article with something you know is likely not true?

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  3. GoodThings2Life Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    I don’t really think it will be a big deal… it’s no different that Apple’s approach all along, and it’s no different than Microsoft’s approach with Windows Phone 7. As long as 3.0 features some drastic UI change or continue to support widgets, it will be fine since HTC and Samsung can continue “customizing” via widgets all they want.

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  4. The two juicy details that really make my mouth water are the 1280×760 screen resolution, and the 1ghz minimum CPU clockspeed. This is telling us that Google is really going to get behind the tablet craze. But in order to be really successful in the market, they’re going to have to allow the android market to reside on tablet devices, otherwise there really won’t be any substantial features (seeing as how many features come from apps) that will lure people to an Android tablet over the iPad.

    Now I have to decide… I was going to get either the Pandigital Novel (once the software is tweaked) or the Archos 7 home tablet… Now with the resolution, and processor specs of the next version I’m not so sure. I’ll probably wait just a tiny bit longer just to see what becomes available. :)

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  5. Clearly Google is once again emulating Apple. They realize that Android is becoming heavily fragmented (Hardware, OS, Apps) and this is a huge weakness when compared to the streamlined and very consistent UI among iOS Apps. The quality of Android Apps is definitely a notch or two below that of the iPhone. iOS is putting a serious bag of hurt on Android and Google is scrambling to keep Android momentum. Once the iPhone launches across all carriers Google should feel more pain and Flash should start declining rapidly.
    I see Android 3 as Google desperate attempt to keep up with iOS in the mobile marketplace. They really have no choice but to reign in their rogue partners who threaten to fork the platform in many different directions.

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    1. Well, HTC did take a mediocre OS and made it workable with Sense UI. Everyone else is just stuck in mediocre. Google is just trying to even the playing field for all manufacturers.

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  6. If they do lock down on GUI customization, I won’t complain. From the beginning they should have made GUI customization not “break” upgrade paths. There’s no reason changing the gui a bit should prevent updates to other important systems. That said, I also don’t think people absolutely need to have the latest bleeding edge version of Android on their older devices, though it’s good if they can.

    I don’t like how the minimum screen size is limited to 3.5 inches. Big screens might be nice for many people, but I think forcing a particular size on manufacturers will stifle creativity in device design.

    A little off topic, but that also alarms me about the latest trend of huge screens on phones. Basically they’re turning into MIDs (something I expected a long time ago), but it won’t be long before they’re too big to fit in your pocket.

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    1. Also, I think google should work on docking options for Android. I’d be so happy if I could simply drop my phone into a dock, and suddenly be able to use it on a big desktop screen, with a keyboard and mouse, speakers, etc… just like the laptop docks for ultra mobiles. The processing power and memory on today’s smartphones is enough to act as most people’s main computers (as shown by netbooks and ipad).

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  7. I have no problem with google locking down the user interface. If anything what google should do is just do a total lockdown of the basic interface and allow companies to run their own interface on top of it but allow the user to have the ability exit that interface.

    For example, HTC is hellbent on installing sense on their phones. I love sense, it does make simplify a lot of the OS but I don’t like having to sit on version 1.5 while everyone else is sporting 2.1 simply because HTC hasn’t gotten around to tying sense into the new updates.

    I think this way we as the user can decide do we want to stay on 1.5 and have sense or update to 2.1 and enjoy the features and abilities 2.1 has to offer and in the future allow HTC to release a sense pack addon that gives sense users what they want.

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  8. So much for ‘open’ – sounds like Google is again copying Apple.

    They’re even zapping Apps with a ‘kill switch’!

    http://bit.ly/appzapper

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  9. First and foremost google is going to push their agenda. That’s the way they make money you can’t fault them for that. They realized selling phones isn’t their business. Data mining is their business. The only thing that will be locked down is google’s ability to gather statistical data on each and every user of their platform, any customization done by phone manufacturers is just icing on the cake. WebOS took a whole lot of R&D money to build out that it cost Palm it’s solvency. Let’s face it without Android, phone manufactures don’t stand a chance against Apple. So I say they will suck it up and take whatever google gives them.

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  10. Before you guys get your panties in a bunch, this article is inaccurate. Just wait and see. Google is not going to lock down interfaces; its going to try to make it so that they’re 1) unnecessary and 2) don’t delay the ability for handsets to upgrade to newer versions of Android.

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  11. It sound awfuly like and android tablet because its only going to be released on android tablets.This is not going to be used on phones.

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