May 16, 2011, 6:10 AM — Developers are hopeful that the upcoming "Ice Cream Sandwich" release of Android will fix the long-standing problem of fragmentation on the platform, which has forced application builders to write their programs differently for the multiple versions of the OS in circulation.
Android OS 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" is due by year's end, providing a unified platform for both smartphones and tablet devices. "It's definitely going to be a good direction because fragmentation seems to have been a direction they were going in. Hopefully, this brings it all back together," said Brian O'Neil, software architect at Turner Broadcasting. Developers could find an easier path with "Ice Cream Sandwich," he said.
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Concurring was Mark Wolgemuth, chief architect at Web time-tracking tool vendor RescueTime.com. "We have an Android app that I'm working on trying to get it to work across [versions] 2.2.x ["Froyo"], 2.3 ["Gingerbread"], and 3.0 ["Honeycomb"], and the UIs behave a little differently in some ways. To not have to code to a diverse branch of platforms and be able to code to just one and instead use screen-size detection and things like that to handle UIs is a much better solution."
"Ice Cream Sandwich" is positioned as an open source release for multiple device form factors. "We want one OS that runs everywhere," said Mike Cleron, a member of the Google technical staff. Capabilities from the 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet release of Android -- including a holographic UI, multitasking UI, and richer widgets -- will be able to run on smartphones. Also, APIs will enable developers to take a UI and scale it across different form factors. For conferencing applications, "Ice Cream Sandwich" will be able to detect who is speaking and shine the device's camera on that person.