Android Team Cautions on Changes Before 'Ice Cream Sandwich'
Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android developers plan to release source code for the new Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" operating system soon, but the company also cautioned that it is making changes to the build that will affect some developers.
With ICS, the Android Framework will include a complete set of APIs for accessing Google Calendar data. These complete, documented APIs are part of Google's Android Application Framework, which means their tests appear in the compatibility test suite (CTS) so that Android OEM partners must prove that the APIs work.
However, the complete Calendar APIs may may prove to be a hiccup for developers who have built applications with undocumented Calendar APIs that haven't been subject to the rigors of the Android test process..
"Unfortunately, these integrations were unsupported, and prone to breakage by platform updates or OEM customization of calendar features," explained Android developer advocate Tim Bray in a corporate blog post. "We want to see lots of good calendar apps and extensions that work reliably across Android devices, and aren't broken by platform updates. So we decided to create a clean API, including a comprehensive set of Intents, to manage calendar data in ICS."
What this means is that anyone can code against these new APIs with the knowledge that not only will support them but that partners have to support these APIs. When the new APIs are finished developers will have to update their programs for them to run correctly on ICS's compatibility test suite.
ICS also features a complete, text-to-speech API running on Dalvik that developers can access using ordinary Java code. This means the old C++ API Google provided will no longer be supported. However, Bray promised Google will have a compatibility layer that developers can use as a bridge between the old API and the new one.
"We recognize that this means some work for developers affected by these changes, but we're confident that Android programs in general, and both Calendar and TTS apps in particular, will come out ahead," Bray explained. "And we also think that most developers know that when they use undocumented APIs, they're making a commitment to doing the right thing when those APIs change."
It will be interesting to see how Android developers, who have created over 300,000 apps for the platform, respond to Google's move here. Meanwhile, while Google did not release its "Honeycomb" build to open source, it promised to get the code into developers' hands this time around.
"We plan to release the source for the recently-announced Ice Cream Sandwich soon, once it's available on devices," wrote Dan Morrill, Google software engineer wrote in a post on Google's forum.
That should come as soon as next month, when Samsung launches its Galaxy Nexus handset, the first to receive the ICS build.