In an interview with Sundar Pichai, head of Chrome and Android at Google, Businessweek managed to extract a truly exciting tidbit: the next major version of Android will be demoed at Google I/O ahead of its fall release.

“I want the world to understand what we are doing sooner”

This is a marked change from business as usual at I/O. Google hasn't demoed a version of Android far ahead of its release since Andy Rubin showed off an early incarnation of Honeycomb three-and-a-half years ago at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference. And Honeycomb, for all its experimentation and innovation, was widely-regarded as a flop.

Why the switch now? Our suspicion for quite some been has been that Google is putting off the next incarnation of Android to introduce some major changes to the operating system. Changes like Quantum Paper. And Hera. And a new home screen. And OK Google everywhere. And Nearby. And new eyes-free in-car functions, aka KITT. And some minor changes, like new icon styles.

It seems inevitable that we'll be seeing some of these things teased at the I/O keynote tomorrow morning, though given that the "L" release is still apparently slated for an official coming-out in fall, it's hard to say what level of detail we'll be seeing at the show. What we can say now with increasing confidence is that Volantis, aka the upcoming HTC Nexus tablet (and maybe the last of the Nexus devices), will likely be the hardware Google debuts this software on (not at I/O, though - that seems unlikely). After all, every truly major release of Android (and at least a couple non-major ones) has had an accompanying piece of hardware launch alongside it. For the record:

  • Éclair (2.1): Nexus One
  • Gingerbread (2.3): Nexus S
  • Honeycomb (3.0): Motorola XOOM (which was basically a Nexus in everything but name)
  • Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0): Galaxy Nexus
  • Jelly Bean (4.1): Nexus 7
  • Jelly Bean (4.2): Nexus 4 / 10
  • Jelly Bean (4.3): Nexus 7 (2013)
  • KitKat (4.4): Nexus 5

The pattern should be obvious at this point. Given that the Nexus phone program appears to be deceased, and the continued build-up of rumors around a Nexus tablet, but not a Nexus phone, Volantis is by far the best candidate. We probably won't see Volantis at I/O, though, which is likely to draw Apple comparisons. Android's arch-nemesis has recently chosen to preview new iterations of iOS ahead of accompanying hardware announcements, saving devices for unveiling until later in the year.

You can check out the full interview with Pichai, below.

Bloomberg, Thanks, Dominic!