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Android 5.0 Jelly Bean Rumor Explained

There have been some rumors going around about Google's newest sugary software upgrade for mobile devices: Android 5.0 "Jelly Bean". I'd like to address those here with a healthy dose of common sense.

The tech press loves a good rumor, and admittedly so do I, but I think this one is just off base.  Allow me to explain with a little background:

When Android came out, it was meant just for phones, and it's worked quite well for that.  As time went on, Apple bestowed on us the iPad.  Manufactures scrambled like Wal Mart shoppers for a $40 dollar DVD player on Black Friday to put out a tablet.  One of the first Android tablets that made it market was the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7".  This tablet ran Android Gingerbread.  Google cautioned that Gingerbread (Android 2.3) was not meant for tablets, but they were cooking up something that work.

Some time later they released Android 3.0, or more commonly known as Honeycomb.  Honeycomb was meant only for tablets.  Motorola came out with the first Honeycomb tablet, and lets just say it didn't sell so well.  Why?  Because there were only a handful of apps for it, and a lot of the Android 2.0 apps didn't look right on it, or didn't work at all.

I am not going to even go into all the Android "fragmentation" talk that came up around this release.  Let's look at if from a developers standpoint:  At this stage in the game, you've got Android phones which are very popular, so it makes sense to make an app for them.  But why would you want to develop for a tablet OS that has near zero market penetration?  This is why Android tablets don't sell.

So how was Apple able to launch a tablet with a plethora of apps?  They made it easy for developers.  First off, all iPhone apps could run on an iPad, albeit a little pixelated.  But, Apple also made it easy for developers to convert their apps into "Universal binaries".  In other words, with very little modification, you could turn your iPhone app into a sweet iPad app.


Apps sell devices. Apple capitalized on this theory, and in the process, took most of the market share.

Google got smart and released Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich.  This is a unified operating system.  In other words, you can write one app, and deploy it everywhere.

Google's got a problem:  They can't upgrade every phone and device out there because they don't control the hardware development.  They rely on other manufacturers and operators to push updates.  While they can make it as easy as possible to update, they have to sit and wait for ICS to get a big install base.

Do you remember how long it took Gingerbread to get a big install base? A lot longer then iOS 5.0 took to get out there.

So developers STILL have to develop for two, and now THREE OS's to stay current on Android phones and tablets.

Now, to address the rumor about Android 5.0

Google's not stupid.  They know that developers and apps sell hardware.  More hardware sold means more revenue for Google.  They know of the fragmentation issue that faces developers and they are working hard to fix that with Android 4.0.  They'd be stupid, just plain stupid to release, or even talk about Android 5.0 now when 4.0 still has about 1% penetration.

While it's a tempting to dream about how awesome 5.0 is going to be, we just aren't going to see it for a long time.

So tech press, unless you've got something substantial, like a leaked ROM or a screenshot, let's just stop talking about it and focus on real news and getting more copies of Ice Cream Sandwich out there.