It’s hard to believe that we were sizing up Android’s 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system as late as last December, considering that there’s reason to believe that the next Android OS, dubbed “Jelly Bean” might be released as early as April 2012.
The quick turnaround time for the release of the new Android OS is brought on by a number of factors, not the least of which is the fact that Ice Cream Sandwich is only active on about 1% of Android devices. It hasn’t helped that the 4.0 OS isn’t even available for many of the most popular smartphone platforms like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, which aren’t even eligible for the update.
In addition to its lack of availability on current Android devices, Ice Cream Sandwich’s otherwise lackluster performance is driving the push towards the earlier release of its successor. According to Digitimes, Google’s plan is to make 5.0 available ahead of Windows 8 (scheduled for later this year) to make the case that both Jelly Bean and the Windows OS should be incorporated together into tablets. Google plans to optimize 5.0 for tablet use and to integrate Chrome. This would help Google push for a dual operating design that would allow users to switch between Jelly Bean and Windows 8 without having to shut down the device.
Given Ice Cream Sandwich’s performance thus far, hardware vendors are wary. Google initially hoped that 4.0 would unify Android hardware devices under a single operating system, but thus far that hasn’t happened. By releasing its successor in such a short span, Google is doubling down in the hopes that unification might be achieved if the update is solid enough and acts as advertised. However, as Zach Epstein of Boy Genius Reports noted, vendors are maintaining fairly low expectations for the new OS release. As many of those vendors are still working to incorporate 4.0 into their devices, Epstein suggests that the release of Jelly Bean might have the opposite effect and “push Android fragmentation to new heights.”