Google steps on development gas with Android N: Will it matter?

Instead of delivering what many suspected would be a delayed Android, Google is trying to get Android N to hardware vendors before summer ends. The bet: Android can get an edge over Apple.

Google's preview of Android N kicked off Wednesday and will run a monthly cadence through beta with the aim of getting a final version off to hardware vendors before summer ends.

Android N was a bit of a mystery considering that Google had to rewrite a lot of code underneath to shift from its Apache Harmony underpinning to Oracle's JDK. Google's shift was an aftereffect of losing a patent lawsuit against Oracle. The conventional wisdom was that the latest Android would be pushed out beyond the usual timelines.

Instead, Google appears to be enlisting its developers earlier in the process to find compatibility issues and other problems. By June and July, developers will have final Android N APIs and a software developer kit.

Google's developer timeline looks like this:

android-n-timelines.jpg

The bet by Google is that it will get the latest Android to hardware OEMs in time for new products to be available in the holiday shopping season. Yes, we're in the service pack era for mobile platforms with incremental updates that don't drive upgrades. But a new Android is a handy excuse for tech vendors to pitch new devices. Perhaps Google is hoping to get a jump on Apple's cadence with the fall iPhone release.

What remains to be seen is whether the new features in Android N will be enough to drive a hardware cycle. Some of the additions to Android N will be welcome yet others may be annoying.

For instance, multi-window support in Android N will be a boon to phablet devices, which cover most of the market. Multi-window support may even make Android tablets more appealing.

On the other hand, Android N brings new APIs that will allow apps to deliver notifications that are "highly visible and interactive." For overloaded screens with a bevy of notifications less is likely to be more.

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Other features such as data saver, which allows Android N to block background data usage, will be handy, but others equate to plumbing changes.

In the end, hardware vendors are likely to appreciate a speedier path to the latest Android. What remains to be seen is whether devices can do anything to court tech buyers.

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