Android update turns Google phones into Wi-Fi hot spots

Google on Thursday gave developers a peek at an Android software update that lets smartphones become Wi-Fi hot spots and support video based on a Flash program shunned by iPhone maker Apple.

The Android mobile update code-named "Froyo," short for frozen yogurt, will "be here soon," according to Google. The news came with the announcement that more than 100,000 "Google phones" are activated daily.

Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra displayed more than 60 different models of smartphones built on Android software, saying that in just 18 months the platform has made "fantastic progress."

"Froyo is not a game changer but it is more good stuff," said Gartner research vice president Ray Valdes. "The Android train has momentum and it is rolling down the track."

In an on-stage presentation rife with jabs at iPhone, iPad, and iPod maker Apple, Gundotra demonstrated Froyo strengths that included a head-to-head test showing Web browser performance faster than that on the iPad.

"It is important to us to make the browser rock," Gundotra said.

In a nod to the business smartphone market dominated by BlackBerry handsets made by Research In Motion, Froyo was made to be friendly with Microsoft Exchange and other applications popular with companies.

Google also added "tethering" to Froyo so people can use wireless connections to link multiple smart devices to Android phones, letting gadgets share a single Internet connection.

"If you are like me you have a plethora of devices you carry around with you," Gundotra said.

"Now your android device can in fact become a portable hotspot and indeed serve the needs of the other devices... you go to another device that doesn't have connectivity, lets say that iPad, and have one bill."

Google said that Froyo will support the coming Flash Player 10.1 from Adobe Systems.

Adobe has been in a public feud with Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who has banned Flash from the iconic California company's gadgets and openly lambasted the software.

Most online video is based on Flash.

"We are not only committed to having the world's fastest browser, we're committed to having the world's most comprehensive browser," Gundotra said.

"It turns out... the Internet people use Flash. Part of being open means being inclusive, not exclusive."

Working with Adobe to meet the online video needs of users is "much nicer than just saying 'No'," he added in an indirect jab at Jobs.

Google also announced that the Android Marketplace stocked with more than 50,000 applications will feature music as well and people will be able to transfer libraries of digital tunes to its smartphones.

Google is working on building "intent" recognition into Android phones so devices know automatically when people want to make telephone calls or get turn-by-turn directions to destinations.

"We have big dreams for Android," Gundotra said. "Part of that means Android will go to new places with new chip applications."

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