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How Sweet Is Ice Cream Sandwich?

By Katherine Noyes
Oct 27, 2011 5:00 AM PT

It's no secret that Linux fans tend to be fiercely proud of Android, representing as it does Linux's biggest consumer-focused success so far.

How Sweet Is Ice Cream Sandwich?

Excitement over the newly unveiled version 4.0 of Google's wildly popular mobile platform, however, just may be setting a new record.

Buzz over the latest iteration is practically drowning out all other conversations in the blogosphere, in fact, as enthusiasts enumerate all the software's latest bells, whistles and innovations.

'Looks Incredible'

"I think it looks like a fantastic upgrade," enthused waitingmp in the comments on TechRadar's "Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Everything You Need to Know," for example.

Similarly, "WOW! Android 4.0 ICS looks incredible," agreed bradavon. "It'll give iOS5 a serious run for its money. I'm so excited about this."

News that the source code for the platform will soon be made available only fanned the flames of excitement, so Linux Girl knew she needed to take the topic to the streets of the blogosphere for some more insight.

Android is great, yes -- but what is it, exactly, that's so exciting about this new version?

'ICS Will Finish Off iOS'

"Android 4 is a really big deal," blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl.

"All the manufacturers who delayed tablets will now rush to market in time for Christmas," Pogson explained. "All the manufacturers who hacked 2.2 to run on tablets will now be able to produce a single app to run anywhere, including, eventually, desktops. With the rate of uptake of Android/Linux, ICS will catch the wave and finish off iOS on tablets as well as smartphones."

Indeed, it's "nice to see Android leapfrog iOS again," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack agreed. " I had seen a few Android features in the last iOS release and was wondering what Android would do to top that."

Another thing that makes Ice Cream Sandwich "huge," meanwhile, "is that it is out a year ahead of '8,'" Pogson added. "There will be no way M$ can throttle the growth."

'The Potential to Scratch More Itches'

Similarly, "this is going to be big!" concurred Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"There are enough new 'toys' (new APIs and classes) to keep programmers and designers excited," Hudson explained. "It's that excitement over the new potential to 'scratch more itches' that will finally fill the numbers gap between Android and Apple apps."

The other question, however, is, "with Apple having switched from 'html+javascript web-apps' with the iPhone 3G, and Google also running 'real applications,' is Microsoft going to be the only one pushing 'html5+javascript' applications when it comes out with the Windows 8 Metro UI?" Hudson mused.

A Closed Future?

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet is just "waiting for either Google or the OEMs to 'pull a TiVo' and lock the whole thing down," he told Linux Girl.

"When it started, Google NEEDED the FOSS developers, but now? Even my 70-year-old dad knows what Android is," hairyfeet explained. "And let's be honest folks, the constant malware pounding Android really doesn't look good. That is the downside to being truly open when your competitors aren't: it's easier to get malware through an open door than over a walled garden."

Carriers, meanwhile, "have ALWAYS loved locked-down phones," he added. "After all, that is how they can sell 'features,' which is just uncrippling something the phone already has but has been disabled."

Bottom line? "Mark my words: by Android 6, it'll probably be about as 'open' as Apple's offering," hairyfeet predicted.

'That Was a Mistake'

For the time being, however, "Android 4.0 will be open source," Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, reminded Linux Girl.

"What ICS really does is it corrects the debacle of Android 3.0," Lim added.

"When Google decided to come out with a separate operating system for tablets, that was a mistake," he explained. "Instead of coming out with an operating system for tablets they should have worked on making a scalable user interface."

From 'Vanilla' to 'Banana Split'

The most important thing about Ice Cream Sandwich is that "there seems to be a change in the wind insofar as Android being a pure operating system is concerned," Lim asserted.

"With Android 1.6 to 2.3, the 'vanilla' version was a pretty basic OS, which provided the minimum necessary smartphone functionality," he noted. "Manufacturers released their own customized versions of Android, which could be a simple re-skin or a user interface deeply integrated into the Android OS adding a whole new set of features."

Now, with Ice Cream Sandwich, "the vanilla Android install is not very much like 'vanilla' anymore, but more like a Banana Split," Lim concluded. "After ICS, the difference between manufacturer-customized UI's is likely to be only skin deep."

The addition of more functionality in the basic Android operating system, meanwhile, "will make a fair number of apps irrelevant," he predicted.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

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