If it didn’t make sense to Google to support Android 2.2 or 2.3 on tablets because it was not optimized for tablet use, why does it make sense to have a UI optimized for a tablet on a smartphone? Earlier this week Google released a preview of Android 3.0, and after looking at the screen shots of the UI designed for a tablet, I got the feeling Google was going to fork Android. Perhaps forked is too strong of a word, what I really mean is that it looks like Android will have two UI shells, one for tablets and another for smartphones.
Pocketnow.com has put together a video walking thru Android 3.0 running in an emulator with a screen size similar to smartphones. After watching the video I am not convinced the UI works well on the smaller screen size, but perhaps others will have a different point of view. I don’t find the Android 3.0 home screen screen shot that Pocketnow.com has on their page appealing, to me it looks cluttered.
Steven Vaughan-Nichols, who writes for ZDNet, came to the same conclusion as I did about Google forking Android. Another ZDNet blogger wrote a counter post saying that Android 3.0 is not a fork. Frankly, I think the debate about whether or not Google is forking Android is the wrong debate to have. The right debate is whether the UI changes that Android 3.0 will have will work on smartphones.
Finally, if Google is not forking Android, then someone explain to me how Android 2.4, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, fits into the picture. All indications are that Android 3.0 will appear on devices before Android 2.4, which doesn’t make much sense unless Android 3.0 is not intended for smartphones, or 2.4 is the wrong version number for Ice Cream Sandwich. Fortunately, we might get some answers soon because Google is holding an event on Wednesday, February 2, presumably to show off more of Android 3.0 and maybe give some time frames for when it will be available.