What will Android 3.0 look like?

Video chat will lead the new features in the "Gingerbread" mobile operating system, according to recent reports and rumors.

Android 2.2, or "Froyo," may still be in the process of rolling out to users, but Google is already hard at work on "Gingerbread," the upcoming version of the mobile operating system that most expect to be numbered 3.0.

Not only is the Gingerbread software development kit widely rumored to be planned for release next week, but it looks like video chat will likely be among the new version's top-billed features.

"We support video chat today with Google Talk Video," said Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering, in an interview last week. "It works on the desktop. Whether that can be repurposed and made appropriate for sipping bandwidth for mobile, it's an exercise that's under way."

Combined with the increasing incidence of front-facing cameras on Android devices, the evidence does seem to suggest that video calling could be on the way. That, in fact, could be one reason hardware makers working with Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor recently said that Gingerbread will "change the way we use our phones."

Indeed, tablet fans have been eagerly anticipating Gingerbread ever since Google admitted that Froyo really isn't tablet-ready. Some tablet makers have been using it anyway, of course -- despite LG's decision not to -- but Gingerbread could open up a world of new possibilities on the increasingly popular form factor.

Focus on UI, Gaming

Also widely expected in the next Android release is a vastly improved user interface, effectively removing the need for the "skins" commonly added to earlier versions of the mobile operating system.

Then there's gaming performance, which Rubin recently said is "an area that I think is underserved right now" while discussing the next Android. "I think that would probably be an interesting thing to pay attention to," he added.

Gingerbread is actually already in use by at least 10 people, TweetDeck reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, what's expected to be the flagship Gingerbread device -- a dual-core Tegra 2-based Droid nicknamed the "Terminator" or "T2" -- is already in the works at Motorola, reports the Android and Me blog, with specs including double-speed Web browsing and gaming performance up to five times faster than what's currently available. Currently, the device is expected early next year.

Android 2.2 launched in May, so a six-month release cycle would dictate that the next version debuts in November. The version after Gingerbread -- known as Honeycomb, or Android 3.5 -- is expected in the first half of next year.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

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