Google's next update to the Android OS is called Ice Cream Sandwich. Confirmed last night at the Google I/O developer conference, the company has remained fairly tight-lipped on the features that'll be rolled in -- but here's what we know so far. We'll update this story whenever we find out more hard facts.
What is Ice Cream Sandwich?
Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is the next generation of Google's Android operating system, building upon the best features of both tablet-based Honeycomb and phone-based Gingerbread, and designed to work seamlessly across all Android phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
When will ICS arrive?
Google's Ice Cream Sandwich should be available towards the end of this year, hopefully in time for Android devices given as Christmas presents.
What new features will be in ICS?
Google hasn't yet mentioned many specifics about ICS, but you can expect many of the improvements in 3.1 Honeycomb, including the holographic user interface, improved multi-tasking and application switching and more advanced applications. Widgets can be resized by hand to show as much or as little information as you want, which is very nifty.
Other cool stuff developers will soon be able to get their hands on include face-recognition software and a virtual camera operator system which automatically focuses on the active speaker when recording video.
I have a really old Android phone. Will ICS work?
Google has said all Android-based phones will work with the new OS, regardless of age. Naturally, some features will only work on newer phones or devices with certain hardware capabilities. The OS will intelligently adapt based on the hardware it's installed on. Google's announcement is based on an ideal world and it's conceivable some phones just won't work well with ICS.
Will this improve the Android OS update process?
With so many device manufacturers and network operators, updating Android versions has often been temperamental and frustrating, forcing more savvy users to initiate manual downloads.
Google is working with members of the Open Handset Alliance and others in an attempt to ensure this unified version of Android is updated quickly across the board. The finer details are still be worked out.
What version number will ICS have?
Google hasn't yet given the new OS a version number. We'll stick with the sweet-sounding dessert name for now.
What's the licence for ICS?
ICS will be fully open-source, including the user interface and widgets.
How will ICS affect my apps?
We expect Google to do a decent job of integrating the OS so apps from both current streams of Android OS work well. There's a possibility some existing apps won't work exactly as planned when ICS launches. Some apps may only work well on particular types of hardware.
In the future it should be much easier for developers to create new apps, as they'll only have to build software for one system.