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Rumours have started flying about Android Honeycomb’s shift from Android 3.0 to Android 2.4. Like Gingerbread before it, Honeycomb had always been assumed to be the much-vaunted 3.0 version of Google’s mobile OS.

android honeycomb

But one developer is already claiming that when Honeycomb officially launches, it will be as Android 2.4. That’s set to happen at February’s Mobile World Congress, with Eric Schmidt already down to give a keynote speech at the Barcelona bash.

So, why the change? And why does it matter? Well, it sounds like Honeycomb will be much like Gingerbread, FroYo and Eclair before it, bringing minor but very smart tweaks to the operating system. In that case, why call it Android 3.0 if the upgrades are not wholly revolutionary?

More importantly, this also suggests that Google is finally moving towards Apple’s iOS update model. Namely, tout and roll out one huge software boost annually (or as near as) and then make minor additions and changes as you go along.

Surely now Android 3.0 will represent something completely new. Ice Cream, as it’s known, should be looking to offer something far more deeply integrated and perhaps more up-to-date in terms of UI design, in order to ensure the Big G continues to see off competition and secure number one spot from Symbian in the smartphone charts.

google nexus one 3

Chatter has already started about when we can expect Android 3.0 to arrive, with May’s Google I/O event a good bet. FroYo was touted at it in 2010, so why not Ice Cream in 2011. It’s great to see that Google is perhaps taking the foot off of the gas a touch when it comes to Android, with updates certainly more incremental and with less hype around them.

In dampening down expectations for Android 3.0 in the near term, it can be sure that when it does arrive, there’ll be plenty of buzz as tech fanatics and mobile watchers look to see if it can battle iOS and Windows Phone.

Of course, this will do little to end the murky area of Android fragmentation, as more and more versions slip out into the wild. But it could easily bring an end to customs skins as we know them, especially if live homescreen features become part of the vanilla Android experience.

This one will run and run. Android watching has become a top tech sport and Google is doubtless loving the attention. The hype for 3.0 when it does come will be huge, make no mistake

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