While Wednesday's release of Android 4.1 -- better known as Jelly Bean -- introduced a host of improvements to Google's mobile platform, a "fireside chat" that evening demonstrated that the developer community is far from completely satisfied with the state of their environment.
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Google open source engineering manager Chris DiBona moderated the session, which featured key leaders on the Android team on stage, flanked by large projections of a burning fireplace. (DiBona said that the source was a YouTube video titled '98 minutes of fire.'") Developers asked questions both online and in person from the event floor.
Particularly in response to questions about future plans, the team was relatively cagey, frequently avoiding overly specific answers. Nevertheless, plenty of illuminating details were provided.
The Google Play store dominated much of the discussion, with the team fielding questions over everything from support for overseas Android merchant accounts to music APIs for the cloud-based Play music service.
The latter issue sparked some debate -- while the team confirmed that there aren't any public APIs available for music stored in the cloud, such a feature wasn't ruled out for the future.
"Having streaming music is really neat and important ... but I don't think [its absence] means the end to all on-device files and on-device music players," said DiBona. Team member Dan Morrill clarified that such an API might still exist in the future.
Another developer described his struggles to track download numbers for his apps.
"I've been keeping a spreadsheet by hand, every day, of the number of downloads. I still have to do that, even with all the stuff you guys have added," he said.
"I don't have a schedule to announce, but I agree with you, that seems like important information," responded the team's Ficus Kirkpatrick.
The longstanding strike against Android was discussed as well, with one questioner remarking on how difficult the wide range of hardware and software configurations possible under Android made it for game developers in particular.
Google's Dave Sparks replied that "we're working directly with all the chipset vendors" on standardization projects aimed at ensuring easy cross-functionality. It's still a problem, however, because many vendors use proprietary texture formats, complicating such efforts.
The green android that serves as Android's mascot has no official name, but Dan Morrill revealed that, amongst themselves, the team refers to it as "the bugdroid." Kirkpatrick also said that Android market gift cards are under consideration.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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