The usefulness of Android in your car, on your TV and smartwatch will be decided by app availability, and Google is hoping to make it easier to create them with its new development environment, Android Studio.
Google has, with the introductions of Android Wear, TV and Auto, expanded its operating system to new product categories. All three pieces of software are for highly competitive areas where consumers have a lot of choice, and killer apps are needed to differentiate from the competition and convince people that they actually need a smartwatch or a TV with Android.
Apps that work across all three platforms will be easier to build using Android Studio, the IDE (integrated development environment) that was finally introduced Monday. When developers install version 1.0 of the IntelliJ-based Java tool they are greeted with a panel showing a smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, car, TV and a pair of glasses, highlighting Google’s hopes.
“I think that tooling is really important in making it easy for us as developers to target these new form factors and platforms, and Android Studio helps a lot here,” said Marius Mårnes Mathiesen, head of Android development at Norwegian consultant Shortcut, via email.
Whether developers will actually target these product markets is a different story. More cars and TVs running Android are needed for those two to attract developers, according to Mathiesen.
Android Wear makes more sense since there are a growing number products, even though many of them haven’t been well received. Also, developers get some functionality free, because of the way the development environment works, Mathiesen said. When an Android smartphone or tablet and smartwatch are connected, the handhelds automatically share notifications with the wearable.
Google is also hoping to convince developers to add wearable-specific functionality to the notifications. When developing this with Android Studio, developers can see how the notifications look on round smartwatches like the G Watch R from LG Electronics and Motorola’s Moto 360 and square models, including Sony’s Smartwatch 3.
Opening the door for multiscreen apps isn’t the only goal for Android Studio.. There are also useful features for developers that only develop apps for smartphones. The IDE takes advantage of the editing capabilities of IntelliJ, such as code completion and code analysis. The support for refactoring—which is used to improve the design of existing code—works amazingly well, according to Mathiesen.
Other features include a memory monitor for improving performance and integration with Goggle’s cloud services. The IDE can be downloaded from Google’s developer website, and can run on Windows, Mac and Linux desktops.
The launch is an important milestone, but is by no means the end of the road for Studio. It will continue to receive updates on four different release channels: Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. Canary builds are at the bleeding edge of development and the least mature, while the stable releases are fully tested, according to Google. The classification lets developers choose how quickly they want to add the latest features to their development environment, the company said.
Google is working on a navigation editor that will be used to create and view the structure and layout of Android applications. The tool can be used by developers who want to rapidly prototype apps, and by designers who want to see their designs work on real devices without writing any code, according to Google.
“It’s in really early stages and not really usable for any real work, but it could be a really useful addition to the Android toolset,” Mathiesen said.
Now that Android Studio has hit 1.0, the Android tools team needs to start working on a decent emulator. The version Google now offers is embarrassing and has put a lot of people off from doing Android development, according to Mathiesen.
“I realize this is a difficult problem to solve, but now that we have seen what [Google was] able to do with Android Studio, I expect this problem to be solved too,” he said.