Operating Systems

Devs Get to Poke Around With Marshmallow

Google on Monday announced the official SDK for Android 6.0, aka “Marshmallow.”It also opened Google Play for devs to publish apps that target the new API Level 23 in Marshmallow.

Google further updated the Android Support Library to v23, giving devs an easier way to make new platform APIs, such as permissions and fingerprint support, backward compatible.

“Google is more interested in the journey than the destination,” said Ryan Martin, an analyst at 451 Research.

It does the same thing with wearables, cars and homes, he told TechNewsWorld. “The real question is, how does this fit into the longer-term picture for Google?”

The company knows that both hardware and software R&D are needed for scalable Internet of Things enablement, Martin pointed out.

The Android emulator and developer preview system images have been updated for Nexus 5, 6, 9, and the Nexus Player.

Supported Nexus devices will get an over-the-air update within the next couple of days.

Under the Hood

The Fingerprint API now provides better error reporting, a better fingerprint enrollment experience, and enumeration support for greater reliability.

Devs now can associate an app with a Web domain they own, so the platform can determine which default app to use for a particular Web link without the user’s input.

Marshmallow performs automatic full data backup and restore for apps.

Devs can authenticate users through fingerprint scans.

Another new feature lets apps use a device-unlocking mechanism, such as a lockscreen password, to check when a user was authenticated last, so users won’t have to remember additional app-specific passwords.

Marshmallow lets users directly share content, such as contacts, to targets within other apps.

A new API works with Voice Actions to initiate activity without user input.

The voice interaction API “is indicative of the ‘app-less’ user interface which Gartner has been writing about,” remarked Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner.

An assist API lets users engage with apps through an assistant.

“We’re postulating that a popular use model will be that users interact primarily with a virtual personal assistant primarily, and no longer through a portfolio of apps,” Goertz told TechNewsWorld.

For the Working Classes

A major focus of Marshmallow will be enablement of Android for Work, Goertz said.

New Android for Work APIs include enhanced controls for corporate-owned single-use devices, silent install and uninstall of apps by the device owner, silent enterprise certificate access, auto-acceptance of system updates, delegated certificate installation, data usage tracking, and runtime permission management.

Those additions may be useful, but Google “is already trailing compared to others,” Goertz asserted, while “Windows 10 is ahead of the curve.”

Intel “talked today about an authentication bracelet that employs a tokenization scheme, which can secure all sorts of devices,” said Goertz, who was at the Intel Developer Forum. “It also announced a platform called ‘Identity IQ,’ which lets OEMs implement secure authentication at the hardware level.”

Ooey Gooey but Not Good Enough?

“Some people are saying Marshmallow is not Android 6.0, in that it’s not something major but just incremental,” said Susan Schreiner, an analyst at C4 Trends.

“Others are angry because you can only get it on new smartphones and won’t be able to get it as an upgrade,” she told TechNewsWorld.

OSes are generally backward compatible at launch in order to accommodate existing device users, and with Marshmallow, “Google’s saying you have to develop a market for this,” Schreiner noted. “How long is it going to take Marshmallow to have any significant presence?”

On the whole, Android Marshmallow doesn’t quite live up to expectations, said Gartner’s Goertz.

“There is plenty of room for disruption at the OS level,” he observed, as well as “earthshaking opportunities for innovation. I am not seeing Google at that forefront of innovation, though.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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