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Google Previews Android “L” Update, Announces Android TV

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 1:44pm
Ben Munson

Google today gave a preview of the upcoming L release of Android, due to be released in the fall. 

At Google I/O, VP Sundar Pichai said the next iteration of the mobile operating system, featuring more than 5,000 new APIs, is designed for form factors beyond mobile. Pichai outlined new principles for the redesign of Android and Chrome OS.

Engineering director Dave Burke highlighted some of the new features of the revised OS like personal unlocking that uses voice recognition, Bluetooth connections, and other custom options for skipping the PIN lock. He also said that L will run entirely on Android’s new 64-bit compatible runtime, ART, that provides performance improvement without developers needing to update code.

Android design head Matias Duarte described the new look as “one consistent vision for mobile, desktop and beyond.”

“Material design,” as Duarte explained it, was the inspiration for the expanding and reforming UI design inside the new Android release. Developers will now be able to assign different elevations for design aspects and Android will illustrate that depth with shadows and lighting.

Android TV, an extension of the Android SDK designed to fit bigger screens. The UI compiles streaming services, games and relevant information while enabling voice controls, search, and Google Cast support.  Android TV can leverage an Android Wear device as a directional pad for navigating the screen. It’s coming to Sony and Sharp TVs in 2015 and set-top boxes from Asus and others are coming soon.

Engineering director David Singleton provided a quick demo and update for Android Wear. He announced that a full Android Wear SDK was being made available today, opening up all the sensors and features of wearable devices. He confirmed the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch, both available for order tomorrow. Moto 360 will be available later this summer.

Android Auto, a voice-enabled, simplified version designed for in-vehicle telematics screens. The demo focused on music, navigation and messaging. He announced 40 new partners have joined the Open Automotive Alliance and promised the first new cars with Android Auto would be out this year.

Even before all the new iterations of Android, the OS has a very big user base. Pichai said Android now has one billion active daily users. But Google is still talking about getting its OS out to the next five million people.

Android One is a new initiative working in that direction. It’s a set of hardware reference platforms and turnkey solution for OEMs with the same stock Android software. It will open up Google Play to locally relevant apps and offer full updates on-par with what Nexus devices receive. Pichai revealed Micromax, Karbonn and Spice as the first OEM partners for Android One.

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