Lockheimer acknowledged the frustration over receiving ICS upgrades in a timely manner, which was why the Android Upgrade Alliance was announced at last year's Google I/O conference. The premise of the group was that Android manufacturers and carriers would provide timely upgrades for devices during the OS's first at 18 months on the market.
"The alliance is definitely making a difference," Lockheimer said. "We're making the upgrade process better and are passionate about it. There's a lot of progress being made towards making upgrades smoother."
But Lockheimer added that "getting upgrades to users is very complicated. By the time you add up all the players, it's a big pipeline, a big assembly line, with lots of parts. Everyone needs to be working in tight coordination."
Lockheimer wouldn't divulge specifics of the next version of Android, other than to say it will do a variety of general things that sounded like the goals of any successful operating system.
"Things we will add in the future are around simplicity and power," he said. "That's an ongoing theme at Google and increasingly so."
Those simultaneous directions are meant to satisfy both sophisticated Android users and beginners, he explained.
"We're proud of our work in the in the OS, and we want to offer a polished experience [in the future] that's even faster and smoother." he said.
"We call that 'butter,' which can take many forms. [Future versions of Android] should run even faster and smoother, and even butter-er." (Lockheimer laughed at himself for his use of that word.)
Android was founded on the principle of openness, which means it has been customized by carriers and manufacturers alike to provide unique distinguishing characteristics, Lockheimer noted.
Google is fine with the fact that some users want plain vanilla Android on their smartphones and tablets, while carriers, makers and some users want the added layers that provide customization, he added.
"Having both traits [plain vanilla and highly customized phones] is a strength of Android," Lockheimer said.
"How did Android get here? It was through openness, and by the way you can customize it. As long you don't mess with its compatibility, you can customize it. That's the secret of our success. [Android makers and carriers] don't all want to do the same thing as one another, and they want to innovate," he added
At the same time, Lockheimer said Google is aware that "some users prefer our true Google experience" which is one reason that ICS includes the ability to strip off many apps and functions added by manufacturers and carriers.
"If you prefer plain ICS, you can disable the [added] apps," he said. "One slice does not fit all. This way you can have your cake and eat it too."