Ice Cream Sandwich unwrapped at Google I/O

by Kristen Nicole

As expected, Android was the focus for day one of Google I/O, the search giant’s yearly event highlighting product innovations and industry developments. The revelation of Android 3.1 precluded the announcement of the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich, the highly anticipated OS update expected to solve Android’s fragmentation problems. Android Honeycomb 3.1, on the other hand, enhances the consumer experience, with new holographic interface options, and movie rentals that can be accessed from any Android device. The Motorola (MMI) Xoom remains the Android tablet poster child, receiving the update first, with support for other tablets later.

Tablets and media are Android’s future

Though tablet support for the updated Android 3.1 is limited, tablets are still an important aspect of Google’s (GOOG) long-term success. Along with Samsung (005930.KS), Google gave away some 5,000 Galaxy 1.0 tablets to Google I/O attendees, promoting Honeycomb-optimized apps and emphasizing their importance within the developer community. A whopping 4.5 billion apps have been downloaded across all Android devices, according to Google. The boasting goes on to report 100 million Android devices activated since launch, spanning a dizzying 310 devices that have been designed to run Android’s OS.

The movie rental and music cloud service, which we mentioned yesterday, are good indications of Android’s media-centric goals for the mobile space. But Google really wants Android to become a central hub for the consumer cloud, adding USB ports so Android devices can plug into keyboards, cameras, etc. Beyond this, Google’s looking to integrate android with the home, tying into lighting systems, dishwashers, exercise bikes and more. Acting as a unified communications portal for users, Android is well-positioned as a personal cloud management tool, interacting with a range of devices besides the phone.

Day 2: Chrome OS devices?

To really demonstrate how Android, and Google’s overarching design will fall into place, the second day of the Google I/O event is expected to focus on Chrome OS updates and goals. Using the web as a foundation for applications, Google’s creating its own access hubs through the Chrome web browser and web-based OS. The Chrome Web Store, launched earlier this year, brings the solution full circle, though uptake on Google’s latest project has been met with hesitation. Chrome is still limited in its supporting devices, and was supposed to be released last year for the netbook market. With Chrome OS seeking a safe haven, it’s likely Google will unveil a new device to close the loop on Chrome’s many facets.