Speaking to Computerworld, Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for mobile at Google, suggested Android 5.0 will launch in the fall. He stated “In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still.”
Since its launch, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has got just one percent of the overall Android market. It’s currently shipping on a handful of phones, with a few tablets also announced. Few existing phones or tablets have got upgrades, beyond the “Pure Google” Nexus devices (and if you have the Nexus One, you’re out of luck).
By the autumn, you can bet that one percent will have got to maybe 10%, if you’re lucky. And there will, undoubtedly, still be phones shipping with 2.3, and devices capable of getting ICS waiting for upgrades.
This is why I think that 2012 will be a crucial and dangerous year for updates. What’s the point in Google giving developers additional tools, APIs, and neat stuff at Google I/O (when they will probably announce Android 5.0) when 90% or more of the market for apps won’t be able to use those APIs? Who in their right mind builds apps which require even ICS features, let alone Android 5.0?
There is no point in Google continuing with a yearly upgrade cycle for Android if phone vendors continue to lag behind behind on the versions they ship and the pace of their updates. As Matt Burns puts it:
Google might argue that this is its target strategy. It’s giving consumers and handset makers choices, they could say. But it’s still wacky. Instead of blindly pumping out major revisions every year, how about delegating some engineering might to assist makers in transitioning between Android platforms? That’s pro-consumer.