Both PCWorld and Bloomberg are reporting today that Google is on the record as saying the next version of Android will contain an anti-theft "kill switch," or as Google calls it, a "factory reset protection solution." Smartphones are among the most commonly stolen possessions in the world today, presumably because of their small size and high value. With increasing pressure from governments to incorporate built-in countermeasures to deter theft by rendering a user's smartphone inoperable in the event it is lost or stolen, expanding the existing Android Device Manager's features to include a reset-proof lockout only makes sense.
ADM was released late last year on the Play Store by Google, and included features like a phone finder, wiping utility, and a phone lock tool. Absent, though, was a method to both erase and lock a device until it was returned to the owner. Obviously, such a low-level operation would probably require changes to secure portions of the firmware, something an app isn't going to be able to do by itself.
It's not clear what "the next version of Android" means, exactly, but we can probably assume that it's going to be the next major release, and that the feature will be exclusive to devices running that release or higher. Integration with the existing ADM tool, too, seems very likely.
Will we be hearing about such a feature at Google I/O next week? All signs point to Google holding off on a major Android release for the time being, though we could get a significant taste of what's to come at the conference, and this could be among the feature demos. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.