Android L – Rerouting Google…

Android has become a true fortress in Google’s empire, but what’s more remarkable is that it has done so only in the six years since its introduction back in the fall of 2008. Sure, Google may not be that old at all, unlike prestigious tech companies like HP, Intel or IBM, but they’re becoming the most relevant consumer-oriented company in the business, along with the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. An important vector for this rise to the top was the specific ‘agility’ that characterizes the Mountain View-based giant. It didn’t show the inertia of a tech-giant, instead many skunkworks/internal projects turned into succesful products quite rapidly. That’s how Gmail was born. It’s the whole company policy and attitude towards innovation and creation that gave Google this advantage.

Going back to Android, and linking the previous idea, Google’s mobile operating system displayed the same kind of agility early in its life. Until the 2.1 version (codename Eclair) the OS averaged one major update each two-and-a-half months. That’s more often than some mobile applications, but for an operating system that’s blink-of-an-eye fast. Since then, Android has relaxed the tempo and settled for a six-month release schedule. While that’s two times as fast as its main rival, Apple’s refined iOS, there hasn’t been a major overhaul since version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which was released in October 2011. It all pointed to Android losing its character from this point of view, instead becoming just another commercial solution, engineered to solve Google’s problems, not the user’s.

All these latest releases focused mainly on three things: separating as much functionality as possible from the core operating system, thus putting an end to the fragmentation issue, refining/optiming the internals of Android and finally polishing the user interface whilst avoiding big changes. These are all hard for the user to see, and with these “maintenance” releases stockpiling we began to wonder – what’s the next big version of Android going to be like? Fortunately, Google I/O, the company’s own developer conference, brought for the first time a preview release of the next version of Android. Called Android L, this brings a large suite of changes, improvements and additions, but most importantly it signals an important change of direction for Android. This finally shows the result of the last months’ (or even years’) work inside Google.

So I say let’s unwrap the Android L Developer Preview, take a look for the most important improvements it received over its predecessor, and put all the pieces together. You’ll see that small individual changes add up to build a vastly different image of Android and Google.

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