Google's Next Android Called 'KitKat'

Sep 03, 2013 (12:09 PM EDT)

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Google's Android operating system has surpassed 1 billion activations, an increase of 100 million since Google last disclosed activation figures, on May 15 during its annual developer conference.

The milestone is more or less consistent with the Android device activation rate revealed by Google's former Android chief Andy Rubin in June: 900,000 per day, and the passage of 111 days since Google I/O.

Google SVP of Android and Chrome Sundar Pichai made the announcement in a Google+ post. He also disclosed that Google will continue its dessert-themed naming convention for Android by designating Android 4.4 KitKat, after the Nestlé-owned candy brand. No details about forthcoming features were provided.

Using a protected trademark for Android release names is a first for Google. Previous major Android releases have been known by generic desserts: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Maintenance releases such as the recent Android 4.3 have brought only a changed version number.

[ Looking for a sweet deal on your old iPhone? Read Apple Launches iPhone Trade-In Program. ]

Until now, the name "Key Lime Pie" had been the expected designation of the next major Android release. Given the alphabetical progression of Android code names to date and the arrival of a "K"-based name, it appears that Key Lime Pie is no longer in the running.

To mark the occasion and avoid litigation, Google is working with the Hershey Company, which licenses the Kit Kat brand from Nestlé, to distribute co-branded Android Kit Kit candies. The sweets provide buyers with a chance to win Google Nexus 7 tablets, Google Play credits and free Kit Kat Minis.

An undisclosed number of the limited edition candy bars will include a special code inside the wrapper. Consumers must then visit the Android Kit Kat website and enter the code to participate in the promotion. Presumably, personal information will be collected.

Google declined to provide information about the chances of winning. A spokeswoman said in an email that 50 million specially branded Kit Kat bars will be made available in 19 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Middle Eastern countries, Russia and the United States.

In the U.S., the Hershey Company plans to distribute tickets for 1,000 Nexus 7 tablets, 150,000 $5 Google Play credits, and 20,000 coupons for a free 8 oz. bag of Kit Kat Minis.

The promotion begins Sept. 6, which just happens to be a few days before the Sept. 10 media event at which Apple is expected to announce its iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. The Android KitKat promotion runs through Jan. 31.

Learn more about BYOD, MDM and other topics by attending the Interop conference track on Mobility in New York from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.