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Google I-O brings new sweets to Android

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 8:00am
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

When Google talks, people get hungry, or so might have been the case at this year's annual Google I/O conference for Android developers. The Mountain View, Calif., company brought updates to Honeycomb, released a preview of the forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich, and talked existing Android iterations like Eclaire and Froyo.

Most are aware of Android's ascent to the top of the mobile platform pack. The company announced yesterday that it counts 100 million activated Android devices, 400,000 new Android devices activated every day, and 200,000 free and paid applications available in Android Market. Fully 4.5 billion applications have been installed from Android Market.

Google has shipped eight releases of Android, and there are now more than 310 Android model devices around the world, of all shapes and sizes.

The company said its goal with its latest iteration of the Android operating system, 3.1 (Ice Cream Sandwich), is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device. Ice Cream Sandwich, Google claims, will bring some of the highlight features of Honeycomb, the company's tablet OS, to Android smartphones, including the holographic user interface, more multitasking, a new launcher and richer widgets.

Motorola Xoom users on the Verizon Wireless network are expected to be upgraded to Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) this week. Honeycomb will allow those users to rent movies, use a Bluetooth headset during video chats, resize their widgets and more.

Of course, I/O always brings with it major product announcements. Yesterday it was revealed that Google will be following in Amazon's footsteps with a cloud-based music streaming music service. Music by Google is not in an invite-only beta. The service will allow users to store up to 20,000 songs on Google's cloud and then stream that music to any number of devices. Unlike Amazon's service, Google will not immediately provide users with the option to purchase songs through the service.

But the fun didn't stop with music. Google also announced a new movie rental program through Android Market. Android users can now watch titles from major Hollywood studios for an average price of $2.99 to $3.99.

Google also took the wraps off of an Android set of open source libraries that will enable developers to build apps that can discover, connect and communicate with devices and appliances in the home. Android@Home is essentially a set of developer protocols for controlling everything from light switches to coffee makers and alarm clocks via Android devices.

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