Google outlines Flash, tethering and other advances in Android 2.2

SAN FRANCISCO--Google unveiled the latest version of its Android platform for smartphones--2.2, dubbed Froyo--and detailed a range of advancements on the platform now open to developers.

In outlining the advancements in Android 2.2, Google's Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, said the company hopes to provide developers the opportunity to make dramatic innovations on the company's platform. In a presentation here at Google's I/O conference, Gundotra outlined five areas of advancement in Android 2.2:

First, Gundotra said Android 2.2 is two to five times faster than Android 2.1 when running on the same hardware. He said the speed boost is largely due to Google's introduction of its Just In Time complier, which will speed up both the phone and apps running on the phone.

Second, Gundotra said Android 2.2 will add 20 new features for the enterprise, including support for Microsoft Exchange and new APIs for device management functions such as remote device locking and wiping.

Third, Android 2.2 will provide new data backup APIs to developers, and will also offer a cloud-to-device messaging API that will allow applications to send "intent" messages to users' devices. In a demonstration, Gundotra said the new cloud-to-device messaging API will allow, for example, a Google Maps user to send driving directions from their desktop PC to their Android device, and the new API will automatically open Google Maps on the handset and outline the directions.

Further, Android 2.2 will support device tethering and portable hotspot functionality, thereby allowing users to connect--either through a cable or a WiFi connection--their laptop to their phone and use a wireless carrier's network for laptop Internet access. In a press conference after Gundotra's demonstration, Google executives confirmed that the tethering and hotspot functionality is contingent on carrier support. Some carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, already provide tethering services on Android.

Fourth, Gundotra demonstrated the advancements in browsing on Android 2.2. He said the newly reworked browser can run Javascript two to three times faster than previous iterations of the platform--largely due to the inclusion of Google's V8 technology from its Chrome Web browser.

Also on the browser side, Google said it would add Adobe's Flash technology into its browser. However, Google's Gundotra said the action wouldn't necessarily bring all Flash content, such as Hulu, onto Android phones. "Control over content still resides with the content owner," he said during a press conference after his presentation.

Fifth, Gundotra outlined updates to Google's Android Market. He said users will be able to select an auto-update function on each application they download, thereby ensuring the application can remotely update without the user manually having to update it. Users will also be able to update multiple applications at once, rather than one at a time as is currently available. With Android 2.2, users can also store applications onto a memory card--a function that the system will automatically implement if there isn't sufficient space on the phone itself. Finally, Gundotra said Android Market will provide users with an improved search function, and noted that users will also be able to send error reports to a developer if their app crashes.

Google also offered a view into its future plans for Android, beyond version 2.2. The company said it is working to provide APIs that will connect browser applications to the hardware inside a phone, thereby allowing Web apps to access phone functions like the camera and the accelerometer. The company also said it would improve its speech recognition service to, for example, allow users to search for a business and place a call to that business in one action: "Call Fifth Street Grill," for example. Finally, the company showed off a new, forthcoming streaming music service (click here for details).

On the advertising side, Google unveiled a number of new ad formats for mobile that the company said would provide advertisers with more options. Specifically, Gundotra demonstrated slide out ads running inside an application that can contain multimedia like videos.

Without naming Apple, Google's Gundotra also took a few jabs at Apple's new iAd effort. "We have hundreds of thousands" of advertisers signed up to AdSense and other programs, Gundotra said. "We know a little about advertising."

For more:
- see this Google release
- see this related FierceWireless article

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