At the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, the search giant showed developers a preview of the next major version of the Android mobile operating system codenamed “Donut.”
Donut, which is expected to appear in about three to six months, is the codename for Android 2.0. The most recent developer branch of the operating system is Android 1.5, which is codenamed “Cupcake.” And some sources say the follow-on version of Android after Donut is likely to be codenamed “Eclair,” in line with the recent naming conventions using sweet baked goods and moving in alphabetical order.
At Google I/O, which ran May 27-28, Google officials showed some of the new capabilities of Donut, including a new universal search feature that enables users to search through contacts, calendars, music and more locally on the device and for online information on the Internet. Donut also will support text-to-speech capabilities via a new text-to-speech API that will enable users to use Google Voice Search to find information.
In addition to local search integrated with Web search and the text-to-speech capability, Donut also supports handwriting gestures on the Android phone as well as built in Google Translate, which translates text in one language to another language.
Although the new Android features were well-received by the developer audience at Google I/O, some developers said the enhancements were more evolutionary.
“I think the enhanced search feature looks nice, but is available today through app add-ons,” said Nathan Freitas, a mobile application developer with the Oliver Coady design and development firm in New York.
Added Freitas: “Handwriting? I hope it is more ‘gestures’ than handwriting…speaking as an Apple Newton owner and former Palm employee. I am not eager to have to deal with that world again.”
Freitas previously headed up Java development at Palm.
Meanwhile, Brian Gupta, a mobile operating system expert and developer with Brandorr in New York, said, “While the features of Donut revealed at Google I/O are certainly useful, I would say for the most part they are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. If the rumors are true that this is going to be a 2.0 release, I’d have to assume that there are some things Google is holding back, and would expect to hear more details released over the next several months. That said, the big Android news from Google I/O wasn’t Donut, but rather the revealing of just how many Android devices are scheduled for release this year — at last count as many as 20 worldwide.”
In addition to serving up a preview of the Donut mobile operating system, Google also dished out new, unlocked Google Android handsets free of charge to all attendees. The conference drew more than 3,500 developers.