Google Announces Froyo, Teases Future Android Improvements
Support for Flash and Air:
Google didn't spare any chance to take jabs at Apple. The most obvious opportunity to fire a shot across the bow of the iPhone ecosystem came when Google announced that Froyo would include support for Flash and Air out of the box. This will actually put the full Web in the palm of your hand, including videos from services like Hulu.
Push Data Over the Cloud:
Froyo will be adding a new feature that will allow users to push data to a cell phone over the air from a PC. As a demonstration Google looked up direction on Google Maps. Then, with the click of a button, sent those directions to an Android handset that automatically launched the navigation software with destination loaded -- no input required. Developers will have full access to this feature for sending data from a PC to a handset or Android powered tablet, and it will be interesting to see what companies come up with.
Android Market Updates:
This is long overdue, but the Android market finally has an "Update All" option for your applications. But Google isn't simply content to match Apple for features, it wants to take it one step further. So with Froyo users will have the ability to auto-update applications, removing the need to visit the marketplace and check for newer versions. Even better the Android Market will be getting a proper website where you'll be able to browse and purchase apps and have them downloaded automatically on your phone -- no need to sync with some resource hungry application. Also, while it's not exactly an enhancement to the Android Market, the new ability to load applications on an SD card, greatly expanding the amount of storage space available for apps, will please developers and Android geeks alike.
Using your mobile phone to connect a laptop to the Web is hardly a new idea. Here in the U.S. we're still waiting for that feature to show up for the iPhone, leaving the door wide open for Google to not only enable tethering, but make it an integral part of the OS. What's more, Android 2.2 will feature the ability to turn your handset into a Wi-Fi hotspot for connecting several devices at once and allowing you to ditch the cables.
Froyo is also packing a host of new improvements to mobile advertising, taking a direct shot at Apple's attempt to corner the market with iAds. Google's plans involve interactive and expandable advertisements that can be of varying degrees of complexity. Tapping an add can do something as simple as initiating a call to a company (as indicated by a phone icon), launch a movie trailer or open store locations on Google Maps. All of these features are available without closing or even completely obscuring a running application. Google is also putting its money where its mouth it when it comes to openness. These rich advertisements are not required to be served up by Google's own doubleClick mobile ad network. Instead the platform is open to any ad network that a developer chooses to use.
Future of Android:
To wrap up the presentation, Google gave us a preview of what to expect in the next iteration of Android, code-named Gingerbread. Gingerbread should bring significant enhancements to support for HTML5 to access phone hardware, for example using the digital compass to orient Google maps in the browser. Gingerbread will also include support for a new streaming app that will allow you to listen to any DRM free music in your iTunes or Windows Media library straight from your phone.
With Gingerbread (Android 3.0?) expected to land by the fourth quarter of this year expect to see Froyo popping up on devices in the very near future, with the Nexus One leading the charge.