The Google I/O conference kicked off earlier today, and some of the biggest announcements coming out revolve around its popular Android OS for smartphones and tablets. Google announced that it has surpassed the 100 million activations mark and it is activating new devices at a rate of 400,000 per day. In addition, 4.5 billion applications have been installed from the Android Market.
Google also announced that the launch vehicle for Honeycomb, Motorola’s pricey Xoom tablet, would be the first to get an upgrade to Android 3.1. Android 3.1 includes improved application task management, USB host support, direct phone to tablet USB support, and widget resizing (vertical and horizontal stretching).
Android 3.1 will be available today for Xoom users. Google TV will be upgraded to Android 3.1 later this summer.
In other Honeycomb news, Google announced that the sleek Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1" tablet will be launching within the next month. For those keeping score, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is priced at $499 and $599 respectively for the 16GB and 32GB models. There is no word on availability for the smaller 8.9" variant which starts at $469.
For those that are sick and tired of being left in the dark when it comes to OS updates for Android devices, Google has formed a coalition of wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S) and device manufacturers (HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, and Motorola) who pledge to make sure that customers are guaranteed prompt OS upgrades. Devices will be supported for up to 18 months after release under the condition that the underlying hardware supports the OS upgrade (that could be a major sticking point for some smartphones/tablets).
However, it's good to hear that Google is at least trying to tackle the "fragmentation" problem that everyone complains about (i.e. brand new smartphones launching with Android 2.1).
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the Android camp is the announcement of Ice Cream Sandwich, which will be the next version of the Android operating system. It will be Google's "most ambitious" Android release to date, and will land in Q4 2011.
Google is a little light on details regarding Ice Cream Sandwich at the moment, but the big takeaway is that the OS will support a revamped UI, and will consolidate OS development so that smartphones, tablets, convertible devices, etc. all run on the same code base (think iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with iOS).