I Can't Believe it's Not Butter
David is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) kicked off their Google I/O developer conference on Wednesday June 27th with a fast paced technical keynote mainly focused on Android. We had seen several leaks about their Nexus tablet, Jelly Bean operating system and even a new streaming box, the Nexus Q, that were all confirmed. Earlier last month Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) held their developer conference WWDC, and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) had several events including a developers conference and a tablet announcement. Apple announced a new version of iOS, iOS 6, and Microsoft announced the next iteration of Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8. This meant that Google was the last of the big three to unveil the next generation of their Android operating system. Giving them time to tweak their presentation to directly counter the announcements from Apple and Microsoft.
There have long been complaints, that in Android touching the screen is not as high of a priority within the operating system as it is within other mobile operating systems, such as iOS. Thus creating lag on some Android devices when you tap their screens, making them feel less responsive. Google has always denied these charges, but just to finally dispel them Google has been working on something for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean they call 'project butter.' Project butter is designed to make Android smoother and more responsive; it involves a higher system wide frame rate and boosting the devices CPU and GPU when you touch the screen. Widgets will also automatically resize and rearrange icons on your home screen if there is not enough room. A feature somewhat like the resizable live tiles that Microsoft called the sexiest new feature in Windows Phone 8.
Google also showed off a new predictive keyboard that is similar to a predictive keyboard we have seen from Research in Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY) for their upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system. This had been one of the only specific features we knew about for BlackBerry 10 and now it has been matched from Android. With the recently announced Blackberry 10 delay, Jelly Bean will be out long before BlackBerry 10. Magel or Google Assistant, Google’s Siri alternative was not announced at Google I/O, however Google did enhance their voice offerings. Now voice typing can be used when you don’t have a data connection. This means that Google’s voice analyzing processes are built into the operating system instead of requiring a network connection. This connectivity, and server reliability has been an issue for Apple’s Siri and Google’s voice typing.
Jelly Bean will also have upgraded notifications, which have long been a strong suit of Android and will include a new service called Google Now. Google Now will use information Google knows about you, from your search history or location and push relevant updates to your phone. This could come in the form of updating you on a sports team Google knows you have been following or notifying you of a delay in a flight you researched.
Google is trying to tackle their slow update cycle by releasing the Android Platform Developer Kit. This will be given to manufacturers several months before the launch of Android releases to allow the manufacturers to quickly release updates for their phones. This is a big issue for Google because their Update Alliance that promised to keep devices up to date for 18 months has not materialized. Of the 400 million Android devices only 11% are running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which has just been replaced by Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean will be released on the Galaxy Nexus, Xoom and Galaxy S in mid-July, which is a faster update than Ice Cream Sandwich had when it launched.
Jelly bean is more incremental than the update from Gingerbread (or Honeycomb) to Ice Cream Sandwich was, thus the numbering change is only from Android 4.0 (ICS) to 4.1 (Jelly Bean). However the improvements are still noteworthy and we’re just scratching the surface at this point. The one thing that was missing from the initial keynote was any update to Google Wallet. The latest rumor with Wallet is that Sprint is about to drop Google Wallet in favor of its own wallet service. Additionally Both Microsoft and Apple announced wallet services in their latest operating systems. Windows Phone 8 is shipping with a NFC enabled wallet feature that Microsoft claims is more secure than Google’s Wallet. Apple announced Passbook which is a mobile wallet for your coupons, movie tickets and rewards cards but at this point does not use the NFC technology.
The major issue going forward for Google is how quickly they can get Jelly bean on their devices. Apple’s current operating system iOS 5 is running on more than 80% of iOS devices. The majority of Android devices still run an operating system that is several iterations out of date (Gingerbread). Microsoft also faces a somewhat similar issue, they have announced that no current Windows Phone will get upgraded to Windows Phone 8, a setback for Nokia and current Windows Phone users. Most current Android devices will be capable of the Jelly Bean upgrade. The question is whether manufacturers will do the Jelly Bean upgrade in a timely fashion so that users can actually get the Buttery goodness that is Jelly Bean.
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