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Google working on next version of Android

Developers given access to Google Android SDK

Google is giving developers the chance to take a look at the software development kit (SDK) for the next version of its Android operating system.

Version 1.5 of the smartphone platform will include support for soft keyboards (including ones from third parties), live folders and speech recognition, Google said in a blog.

Another feature that is getting thumbs up from at least one developer is the ability to create widgets for the home screen.

"That is something people have been longing for quite some time. Users don't have to start the application, because it's just on your home screen," said Konrad Hübner, founder of SkyCoders, whose Cab4me application reached the top 10 in the Android Developer Challenge.

Google also promises better camera and GPS performance, support for video recording and the stereo version of Bluetooth.

Improvements for developers include the option to target different Android platform versions from within a single SDK installation and install Android SDK add-ons to access extended functionality that might be provided by, for example, operators, according to the blog post.

Google, however, will also have to make it easier for developers to make money from their applications if it wants to keep them interested, according to Hübner. Apple has done a better job in that regard, he said.

A final version of the SDK is expected later this month, and version 1.5 will be available as an over-the-air update for existing Android-based smartphones soon thereafter, said Google.

There are still only two phones based on the open-source operating system: the T-Mobile G1 and Vodafone's HTC Magic, which will start shipping in the UK this month.

Android has a tremendous amount of support from phone manufacturers, but it has gotten off to a slow start, according to Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight. The progress it has made in a short time shouldn't be underestimated, but the smartphone space is highly competitive - so the sooner Google can start ramping up the volume the better, he said.

"We certainly feel that Google have made the decision to hold back on the news, and have a single high impact announcement. The advantage for some of the partners in falling into that kind of approach would be the increased marketing and promotional support they would get," said Blaber, who expects the joint announcement to come in May or June and more than six products to be available by the end of the year with more being announced for 2010.

For example, Samsung has said it will launch three Android phones this year, while release dates from Android backers LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson are uncertain.

The lack of phones isn't a big problem for developers, according to Hübner. It was obvious from the beginning that it would take some time before many devices became available, and it has allowed developers more time to get comfortable with the platform, and not have to hassle with, for example, different screen sizes from the beginning, Hübner said.


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