At a time when the company is growing in strength as a platform provider, Google hosts its annual developer conference, Google I/O 2010, this week in San Francisco. We can expect to hear about new features and product plans for the Android OS and the Chrome Web browser, and other products. But, when it comes to Android there are also two important issues Google must address.
The I/O event starts on Wednesday at the Moscone Center and Google is expecting about 5,000 attendees. The company has already scheduled press briefings on four topics:
The most anticipated item of the event is Android 2.2 (codenamed "Froyo"), which will add support for Adobe Flash as well as the capability of turning Android devices into Wi-Fi hotspots (a la the Palm Pre Plus). Those are the new features we already know about. Certainly, Google will also unveil other Android announcements at I/O.
Despite the recent news that Android has made major market share gains against RIM and Apple in the first quarter of 2010, there are still two key challenges brewing in Android land that developers and users would like to see Google address at I/O:
1. Android fragmentation
The first is the issue of OS fragmentation. With lots of Android devices being propagated by multiple handset makers and wireless carriers, there are now Android smartphones running lots of different versions of the OS.
This puts a lot of strain on app developers to support different versions of the software and it can impede forward progress on app features. It also frustrates users when they have to wait indefinitely for their wireless carriers to roll out OS updates.
Google needs to talk about the role it can play to help streamline this process.
2. Android vs. Chrome OS for tablets and netbooks
Beyond the momentum for Android on smartphones, there's also a growing stable of vendors that want to use Android to run tablet computers in the same way Apple used the iPhone OS to power the iPad. In fact, enterprise vendors like HP, Cisco, and BlackBerry have all been rumored to be experimenting with Android tablets.
The biggest problem with that is that Google may not be entirely committed to a tablet version of Android. After all, the company has touted the Chrome OS (based on the Chrome Web browser) as its OS for light computing devices such as netbooks.
Google needs to provide better clarification on the differences between Android and Chrome OS and its vision for how they should be implemented.
Follow developments from Google I/O
To keep up with the developments from Google I/O you can follow this blog where I will offer commentary on the most important developments that emerge. You can also watch the keynotes streamed live at the Google I/O channel on YouTube. The Wednesday (5/19) keynote runs from 9:00-10:30AM Pacific and the Thursday (5/20) keynote runs from 8:30-10:00AM Pacific.
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Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks.