Google unveils Android 2.2, Froyo, in escalating war against Apple

SAN FRANCISCO--As expected, Google used its I/O developer conference to unveil the next version of its popular Android smartphone operating system. Among the new advancements to the version, which, in keeping with Google's tradition of naming its Android versions after dessert items has been dubbed "Froyo," is an increase in processing speed, an improved browser, support for Adobe's Flash technology and a raft of other upgrades. But perhaps more notable than the technology side of things was a strengthening of Google's rhetoric against Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and the company's iPhone.

Google's Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering,Google's Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, repeatedly singled out Apple (though never by name) in describing how Google's approach to the smartphone market is superior to that of its competitors. Perhaps the most overt jab at Apple came at the beginning of Gundotra's presentation, when he explained Google's decision several years ago to get into the smartphone market in the first place. He said the company and the wireless industry shouldn't face a "Draconian future controlled by one man, one device and one carrier."

Apple's Steve Jobs is widely considered to have direct control over the company's iPhone and App Store strategy, and the device currently is only available in the United States through AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T). Jobs has singled out Android and Google with various disparaging comments during the past few months.

According to Google, Android 2.2 offers portable hotspot functionality, support for Adobe Flash within the Android Browser and improvements to the Android Market (including automatic application updates and support for memory card storage). The platform also includes performance and speed enhancements: Due to Google's new Just In Time compiler, Android 2.2 can run two to five times faster on the same hardware, and the platform's browser sports a new V8 Javascript engine that the company said can run two to three times faster than previous iterations (click here for more).

Interestingly, Google's Gundotra showed off Android's new browser in a test against Apple's iPad, and the result showed the company's robot-like Android logo swimming around the screen at more than twice the speed of the same on an iPad. The knock at Apple's product was just one of seemingly dozens of jabs by Google at Apple.

Google also said Android 2.2 will offer 20 new enterprise features, including support for Microsoft Exchange, as well as APIs for developers that support cloud-based data backup and a messaging service that allows applications to more easily share information.

Perhaps most interestingly, Google showed off a demonstration of new music services it will offer via Android that will allow users to store their music in the cloud and stream it to their handsets--the move is clearly an answer to Apple's popular iTunes music service. Google said the service is "upcoming." Click here for details.

Google also offered some statistics to back up its Android story. The company said that every day 100,000 new people activate an Android handset somewhere in the world. The company also said it now counts more than 50,000 Android applications, and more than 60 different Android models are now for sale by Google's Android licensees, which include the likes of HTC, Motorola (NASDAQ: MOT), Samsung and others.

Google said the Android 2.2 SDK and Android NDK, Revision 4, are now for download from the Android developer site. The new version of the platform will be made available to OEMs and the open source community "in the coming weeks," the company said. Of course, Google isn't resting on Android 2.2. According to findings from Engadget, the company is already planning its next Android version, dubbed Gingerbread.

As for manufacturer support of Android 2.2, it appears that should come shortly. An HTC spokesman said the company will "most likely" upgrade the phones it launched this year to Android 2.2. This includes models like the Desire and Droid Incredible as well as the Evo 4G, MyTouch 3G Slide and upcoming models. HTC said it will announce a full list of phones and upgrade dates once the company is closer to launching the upgrades. Separately, a Motorola spokeswoman said Droid owners will be able to upgrade to Android 2.2 sometime in the coming months. And Google's Nexus One? "Froyo on Nexus One soon! (next few weeks)," Google said in a Twitter message.

Some, though, will be left out in the cold. The T-Mobile USA G1 will not get upgraded to Android 2.2, according to Gizmodo. And in a lengthy post on the topic, Sony Ericsson said its Xperia X10, Xperia X10 mini and Xperia X10 mini pro will get upgraded to Android 2.1 in the fourth quarter of this year--but offered no indication of a possible upgrade to Android 2.2. "I do appreciate that the timing for the upgrade above might not meet some of your expectations," wrote Sony Ericsson's Sumit Malhotra in explaining the move.

Other manufacturers and carriers, including Samsung, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NASDAQ:S), either did not respond to questions about Android 2.2 upgrades or declined to comment.

Of course, Android 2.2 wasn't the only item on Google's plate. The company and its partners discussed a wide range of advancements:

  • Google announced its new Google TV effort, which will allow users to easily search and view Internet video content via their TVs. The company said the service will also allow Android users to view their smartphone applications on their TVs. The company demonstrated the service using Pandora's streaming Internet service for Android phones and running through a flat-screen TV.
  • PayPal is offering Android developers the option to conduct in-app transactions using PayPal's payment system.
  • Google said it is putting together a Chrome Web Store for HTML5 apps. The offering is primarily targeted at desktop computers running the company's Chrome Web browser. The company did not disclose a launch date for the store.
  • Google unveiled its WebM project, which the company said will offer the VP8 codec for streaming Internet video free of royalty or licensing costs.
  • Google opened its Wave service to everyone, not just those who receive invites.

For more:
- see this Google Android release
- see this Engadget post
- see this GigaOM wrapup
- see this Business Insider slideshow
- see this Gizmodo post
- see this Sony Ericsson post
- see this AndroidCentral post

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Google shutters Nexus One direct sales channel
A guide to the evolving Android landscape
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