Autore: ExtremeTech

KitKat

Reading the news from last spring, virtually everyone was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Google was going to announce an updated version of Android this year called Key Lime Pie. Furthermore, it was probably going to be the much anticipated 5.0 update. Neither of those things happened. It seemed like a joke when Android lead Sundar Pichai tweeted a photo of the new KitKat Android statue. Mountain View managed to keep this one under wraps and surprised everyone, but how did it come together? More importantly, what does licensed branding mean for Android?

The original codename for the followup to Jelly Bean was indeed Key Lime Pie until late in 2012. Googlers began to note that Key Lime Pie wasn’t a very common food and many people didn’t even know what it tasted like. In typical Google fashion, this bothered the Android team. The relative lack of candy and dessert names starting with K (Android code names are alphabetical) led the team to consider KitKat, which are reportedly kept stocked in the Google kitchens.

John Lagerling, the Director of Android Global Partnerships placed a call to Nestle, which owns the KitKat brand. A day later, the basics of the arrangement were hammered out. A secret meeting at Mobile World Congress in February finalized the deal. Since this was an unusual situation with regard to code names, everything was kept very hush hush. All internal communication about the “K release” continued to use the KLP moniker. Most Googlers didn’t know about the brand tie-in until the KitKat statue was deployed on Google’s lawn.

The reason for the secrecy is fairly evident from the reaction many Android fans had to the announcement — confusion, and in some cases outrage. Google didn’t want this to leak out before it was ready to announce everything. On the face of it, the deal looks like a sponsorship arrangement — Android 4.4, brought to you by KitKat. In reality, no one is getting paid directly for the use of KitKat as the new code name. The wacky videos, the website, the statue — it all needed to drop at once to make it clear this is supposed to be fun, not a sales pitch.

The use of a brand name doesn’t change what Android is, or what version 4.4 in particular will be. This is simply a name and a basis for a logo that most users would otherwise never see. Ask 100 randomly selected Android users what the code name for the platform version running on their phone is, and very few will have any idea what you’re talking about. They might not even know what version number they have.

KitKatTherein lies the genius of this move. Naming the new version of the most popular mobile operating system in the world after a well-known candy bar is news, and not just technology news. When Google releases an operating system called KitKat, mainstream media will pick up the story, especially when the KitKat Nexus 7 giveaway gets underway. That’s good for Nestle and Android. When you think about it, is calling it KitKat any more bizarre than using Ice Cream Sandwich or Gingerbread?

The outrage over Google choosing a brand name seems completely misplaced. Yes, Android is an open source operating system, but that doesn’t mean Google is somehow required to choose a generic code name for it. KitKat fits with the scheme of desserts and sweets so far, so it’s not completely out of character. Isn’t it simply easier if we don’t tap dance around trademarks? If Google wants to call Android 4.4 KitKat, it doesn’t mean it is selling out, or that you’ve got an ad in your pocket.

This probably won’t change anything going forward, but just to be safe, get ready for Android 4.5 Laffy Taffy. It’s the smartphone operating system that tells bad jokes.

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