I've heard "marshmallow," "marmalade" and everything in between, but this is the only thing I know for sure: Even if it might resonate with app developers, it is highly unlikely the "M" in Google's upcoming Android M operating system will stand for "monetization."
It's also a reasonably safe bet that, without confirming any of the wild speculation that's been happening online over the last month, Android M will make its debut at Google I/O, the annual gathering of Android developers that will take place later this week in San Francisco. As usual, a few details have already been leaked, but nothing that gives anyone a true picture of what this particular platform update might look like. Given the historical difficulties developers have had generating revenue from Android apps versus iOS apps, it would be nice if Google offered something within the OS that could help close the gap.
With that in mind, here are a few things I'd love to see come out of Google I/O if and when Android M is officially announced:
1. An on-ramp to enterprise: Android has long been a favorite among developers who want to make mobile games that reach a massive, global audience, but it's telling that large companies like IBM are working more closely with Apple to create compelling mobile software for business use. However a session description in the I/O schedule (which has since been removed) said, "Android M is bringing the power of Android to all kinds of workplaces." That could be interesting, particularly if Android M is packaged with software development kits or APIs that reduce some of the work involved for developers to translate the kinds of game mechanics that power consumer apps into easier-to-use enterprise tools.
2. An Android Wear makeover: Android was one of the first out of the gate with technology that allowed developers to make apps for smart watches and the like, but Apple has captured significantly greater mind share (and probably more market share) with the Apple Watch. Given that Google Glass now appears to be shelved, what can Google do with Android M that will help developers innovate on a variety of device types?
3. Some unexpected user experience options: For the most part, the mobile OS platform wars are a two-horse race between Android and iOS. Now that both have embraced a flatter design philosophy, the main way to differentiate may be to let developers rethink use-case scenarios. Split-screen UIs that allow more than one app to be running on a device at once, more gesture-based controls and customization for the keyboard are all potential game-changers. Then there's the thought that Android M could dominate in the Internet of Things--having bought Nest, it would be interesting to see what Google could pass on to its Android developer community in the way of design thinking.
None of these ideas necessarily translate into cash for Android developers in the short term, but they would be ways for Google to keep them loyal and committed to a platform that has tremendous growth potential, particularly in emerging markets. The worst thing that could happen after I/O would be if developers were to think of the "M" in Android M to stand for "mediocre" instead. --Shane