Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich's Awesomeness is in the Little Things

At the AnDevCon Android Developer Conference, Google highlighted Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich's appeal to the legions of Android Market coders out there.
Written by Matt Weinberger, Contributor

I stopped by the second annual Android Developer Conference (AnDevCon) in Burlingame, California to hear Google Android engineering team members Chet Haase and Romain Guy give a developer's perspective on the upcoming Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich.

In their keynote - memorably entitled "Android Awesomeness" - Haase and Guy didn't offer up any Ice Cream Sandwich announcements or news, per se, but gave some insight into the thought and attention to detail that went into designing Google's next big thing for small devices.

Something that the Google duo seemed to really fixate on is the much-vaunted GUI update that Ice Cream Sandwich brings to the table. At several points during their demonstration of Android 4.0 running on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, they stopped to show off a particularly pleasing animation like the screen turning a glassy blue and tilting when you've reached your last page of apps on the home screen.

But even that has a certain developer appeal: RenderScript, the visual scripting language behind Ice Cream Sandwich, is available to Android Market coder. Actually, essentially all the new goodies that come with Android 4.0 (Android Beam, richer notifications from the lock screen, even network diagnostic information) are open to developers via API or scripting language.

Otherwise, the demo consisted of an overview of the Ice Cream Sandwich features we already knew about. A mention of the fact that the task manager is accessible by means other than paging through the Settings menu drew a short round of applause from the audience. And there was plenty of interest in the fact that Google Android 4.0 finally unifies the tablet and smartphone codebases.

Finally, during the brief Q&A at the end of Haase and Guy's keynote, one developer asked the very reasonable question about whether or not they'd need to rewrite all their apps from scratch for the new OS.

"We do something really crazy - we try not to break existing applications," Romain replied.

Of course, that doesn't provide for the fact that there's a healthy chance that most existing Android devices may never get Ice Cream Sandwich. But Google at least claims to want to reduce fragmentation amongst Android devices, so I suppose that we'll see.

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