San Francisco - Google unveiled multiple mobile-device initiatives here at its I/O conference.
These include fourth-quarter availability of a unified OS for tablets and smartphones and the beta launch of a music-locker service that lets users stream their personal music collections from the cloud to PCs and Android devices.
The new mobile OS, called Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0, will deliver one OS that "works everywhere, regardless of device," will automatically reconfigure applications to different types of devices, and bring tablet-like Honeycomb OS features to smartphones, including the holographic user interface and richer widgets, the company said.
No additional upgrades to the current smartphone OS 2.3, or Gingerbread, are planned before the launch of the unified OS.
In entering the music-streaming market, Google launched
, which lets consumers upload their personal music collection to the cloud for streaming to computers and to Android devices. Users can also listen to music when they're offline, the company said. Google automatically stores a user's most recently played songs on their Android device. Users can also choose to make specific albums or playlists available when they're not online. The service is available to consumers only by invitation.
With the new service, music and playlists are also automatically synced. If a user creates a new playlist on a phone, for example, the playlist is automatically available on the user's computer or Android tablet. A feature called Instant Mix automatically creates a playlist of songs that go well together.
In other announcements, Google:
- previewed an initiative that it called Android@Home, which lets Android apps discover, connect and communicate with home devices.
- said it will extend its platform beyond mobile devices with the Android Open Accessory program, which is designed to help developers build hardware accessories that will work across all Android devices; and
- entered the movie-download business with movies for rent through the Android Market. Thousands of movies available at $1.99 will be viewable on multiple Android devices owned by a consumer. Consumers who rent a movie via PC, for example, will be able to view the movie on their smartphone or tablet or both.
Google already rolled out an update to Verizon's XOOM users, and updates for Android 2.2 smartphones and above are due in the coming weeks.
In another development, Google joined with major hardware suppliers and carriers to jointly develop guidelines for how quickly Android devices will be updated to the latest OS and for how long they will continue to be updated.
The participating companies so far consist of Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Motorola and AT&T. So far, the group has agreed that new devices will get the latest OS upgrades for 18 months after the device is first available as long as the hardware is capable of supporting the upgrade.