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Google Fails to Live Up to Promises

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Oh, the places Google (GOOG) would go!

At last year’s developers conference, Mountain View executives espoused many a change to Android. Among other things, it introduced Honeycomb 3.1, gave us our first glimpse of Ice Cream Sandwich -- the “one OS that runs everywhere” -- and promised music in the cloud.

Now, with this year’s keynote upon us, AllThingsD has given us a rundown of what projects and services were in fact ready for primetime, and what may have fallen short of Google’s own expectations.   

Let’s start on a positive note. AllThingsD gave Google “full marks” for its next generation Android. The Ice Cream Sandwich premiered on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and delivered a much-improved revamp that sent a wrecking ball to the Android 2.3 Gingerbread house.

However, it is now the OS version for only a fraction of smartphones and tablets, leaving owners to wait for an upgrade through their carrier and manufacturer.

The Google Upgrade Alliance between Android phone vendors and wireless carriers -- that would ensure timely OS updates for at least 18 months after a device’s launch -- “is still a big problem in the Android ecosystem.” As mentioned above, Ice Cream Sandwich has made its way to newer smartphones, but not so much among existing devices. In fact, only about 7% of all Android devices run Ice Cream Sandwich.

Until the future updates to BlackBerry (RIMM) and Windows Phone (MSFT) leave existing customers in the lurch, Android will be regarded as the most fragmented platform of the major players.

AllThingsD has been less enthusiastic about Google Music, calling the service a “mixed bag.” Despite the service launching with most major music labels and with a huge offering of popular genres, its barebones features hardly blow Apple's (AAPL) iTunes and Amazon's (AMZN) Cloud Player out of the water.

No one seems quite sure about what happened to the Android@Home initiative. It was intended to make Android the operating system for electrical home appliances, allowing an Android tablet or phone to turn on the lights, start the dishwasher, turn down the thermostat, etc. And the protocol would be offered at very low cost connectivity.

The home framework, along with a host of commercially available compatible devices, haven’t yet gotten off the ground (or at least made it to market), but AllThingsD believes a Google-made media player will make the stage this year.

Lastly, the Chromebooks -- Google laptops that run on Chrome OS -- took up all of Day 2 at the 2011 conference, but now have barely been spotted outside of a Virgin America flight. And those are given out to airline passengers for free.

The first versions on the market failed to impress reviewers, but the newer Samsung Chromebook and its Chromebox desktop machine are getting a lot more love -- thanks, in large part, to Google’s own faster web services.

(See also: Google Isn't Fazed by iPhone Extermination and Apple Hits Google Even Harder With Check-Ins)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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