Android Ice Cream Sandwich: As tasty as we hoped?

Google took the wraps off Android Ice Cream Sandwich this week. How will stand up to iOS 5 and Microsoft's Mango?

Android Ice Cream Sandwich was unveiled by Google this week.

On Wednesday, at a joint event with Samsung, Google officially took the wraps off Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system. The first device to get the latest upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich will be the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is set to hit shelves next month. Other manufacturers – including Sony Ericsson – will debut Android 4.0-powered devices through late 2011 and early 2012.

In a post on the Android Developers blog, Android tech lead Xavier Ducrohet said that Ice Cream Sandwich offered a major step up for the Android platform.

"Android 4.0 builds on the things people love most about Android – efficient multitasking, rich notifications, customizable home screens, resizable widgets, and deep interactivity – and adds powerful new ways of communicating and sharing," Ducrohet wrote. "It includes many great features for users, including social and sharing integration, network data usage control, innovative connectivity and camera options, and an updated set of standard apps."

Ice Cream Sandwich arrives at an interesting time. In recent months, both Apple and Microsoft have introduced revamped versions of their operating systems – Apple with iOS 5 and Microsoft with Mango. Thus far, iOS 5 has been received warmly by critics, although Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., told Businesweek today that "Ice Cream Sandwich could provide the critical push in the race to catch Apple."

Meanwhile, this week, Microsoft announced it was "opening the spigot" on Mango, a long-awaited update to the Windows Phone OS. In a speech at the Web 2.0 conference, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer trumpeted that Windows Phone "gets things done," as compared to Android, which he said you'd need to be a "computer scientist" to use.

Horizons readers will remember that back in April, IDC, an analytics firm based in Massachusetts, estimated that by 2015, Windows Phone will be the second most popular OS in the world, right behind the Android OS, and ahead of Apple. Currently, Windows Phone is in fourth place in the smartphone wars, behind RIM's BlackBerry, Apple's iOS, and Google's Android.

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