Mar, 31 2011

When Android 3.0 was designed and launched specifically for tablets, the ugly voice of fragmentation screamed out from dissenters. We had a phone OS on Android 2.3/2.4 called Gingerbread, a tablet OS on Android 3.0 called Honeycomb, and a lot of confusion amongst the community. Eric Schmidt silenced much of that confusion at MWC in Barcelona, saying Ice Cream would merge Gingerbread and Honeycomb… but now we’re learning a great deal more.

Not only will Ice Cream merge Gingerbread and Honeycomb, but it will also merge Google TV into the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) Code Branch according to an article on GTV Source.com. We verified this with our tipster and signs point to “yes” at Google IO 2011.

In case you didn’t catch that… it’s huge news. In my humble opinion, Google TV is an ENORMOUS opportunity for an entire industry (television) to take the leap that it’s promised for decades (Internet TV). With the addition of apps and games from Android Market, I strongly believe Google TV will be a somewhat unstoppable force. We’ve known Google TV is based on Android and Chrome, but merging it into the AOSP branch means a lot of things, starting with Google’s supreme confidence and motivation in Google TV itself.

Google has been catching a ton of flack for not releasing the Honeycomb source code – it’s time to stop complaining. While everyone cries “fragmentation”, Google attempts to prevent the fragmentation, and then everyone cries “you’re not Open Source”! In my mind, Google has done a great job of balancing a project driven by Open Source concepts without losing control of Android’s momentum.

We reached out to one of our trusted tipsters regarding the [Icecream = Google TV + Honeycomb + Gingerbread] rumor and not only did they confirm it… they also provided some feedback of their own. According to this anonymous source, part of the reason Google is with-holding Honeycomb source code is BECAUSE of the planned integration with Google TV. If Google were to release the source code of Honeycomb now, then launch Ice Cream with Google TV integration, we’d be looking at the same problems and disparities between Gingerbread and Honeycomb all over again. Only this time the odd man out would be the newly added “TV” features.

What does the addition of Google TV to AOSP mean for consumers? A lot… but most of it is behind the scenes stuff. If phones, tablets, and TVs are all pulling from the same code that uses the same APIs, I see two immediately huge benefits:

  • Quicker updates. Google only has to update ONE code base which will account for phones, tablets and TVs. Fix it once or add a feature once and they’re golden across the board. This will allow Google to FOCUS on one “product” – the AOSP – with many different device types enjoying the benefit.
  • Easier/seamless integration between services running on different hardware since they’re based on the same code. Take for example the “Speech-to-text” operation on your Android Phone (I use it all the time). If Android OS and Google TV are not only using the same code for this, but it’s pulled from the same exact place, it maximizes consistency and greatly reduces the possibilities of headaches and compatibility problems.

While the above analysis could be considered a healthy mix of rumor and speculation, out tipster flat out told us that we can expect AOSP to merge Google TV, Honeycomb, and Gingerbread at Google IO. Of course timelines always change, as do plans, but this would be a HUGE step in the right direction for Google TV and open the door for Android Market on Google TV which we’ve been eagerly awaiting. Plus it all just makes sense.

I have no doubt that Google TV will eventually be HUGE. It’s a great concept on it’s own, but with the full momentum of Android behind it… I’m not sure it can lose. In my mind, the bigger question mark is Chrome and Chrome OS.

We’ve previously heard about HTML5 killing Apps and even Google CEO Eric Schmidt said most mobile apps will soon be written in HTML5. Chrome is Google’s insurance policy. They’ve got Android on the native mobile side and Chrome on the HTML side – they’ve got two leading horses in one of the most important races in all of technology. Chrome OS is more of an experiment in my mind, but testing the waters for how a atrictly HTML5-based, mobile-connected device can work. Once – and if – the shift from native apps to HTML5 takes place… Google will already have a huge head start.

Just as Google TV is merging into the Android source, I wouldn’t write off Chrome eventually being merged as well. Android has such a powerful brand name and following that people KNOW it and people WANT it. If Google launched anything as “the new Android XYZ” it would immediately grab consumer and critic attention. Although, as proven by the slow start of Google TV, it’s got to have the killer content to go along with it or we’ll hear it in one ear and out the other.

If you’re interested in GoogleTV hit up GTVsource.com, subscribe to their RSS, and join the Google TV Forum. If you’re a Chrome lover of all kinds (Browser, Extension, OS, Cr-48, etc…) visit our friends at ChromeSpot.com, subscribe to their RSS, and join the Chrome Forum.

PLEASE NOTE: this is regarding the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and nothing consumers – or even developers – will notice cosmetically. It’s all ‘behind-the-scenes’ stuff… but important stuff that will certainly affect us all in the long run!

[Via GTVsource – thanks anonymous for verifying details!]