Google announces Android Jelly Bean (But why the heck is it called Jelly Bean?)

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  June 27, 2012 at 2:45 PM
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The battle for mobile domination rages on as Google fires its latest salvo in the direction of Apple’s recently announced iOS 6 and Mountain Lion.

At Google I/O in San Francisco, the search giant announced new upgrades to its Android mobile platform.

The new version of Android’s operating system--Android 4.1--is called Jelly Bean, and a major component aimed at fixing laggy graphics is titled “Project Butter.”


Tech geeks know that Google has given its Android versions dessert names going all the way back to the beginning.

The first public version of the operating system--Android 1.5--was called Cupcake, released in April 2009. Android 1.6 was “Donut,” then Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and finally Ice Cream Sandwich.

(The names are alphabetical, and pre-release versions were internally called Astro and Bender, both trademarked.)

Google has been notoriously cagey on the reason behind the sweet names. When Honeycomb was released in February 2011, Google’s spokesman Randall Sarafa had this to say:

"It's kind of like an internal team thing, and we prefer to be a little bit -- how should I say -- a bit inscrutable in the matter, I'll say." he said. "The obvious thing is that, yeah, the Android platform releases, they go by dessert names and by alphabetical order for the most part."

"For the most part" because two versions of Android, 2.0 and 2.1, were both called Eclair. And because Google won't say what it called the first two versions of Android, which you can assume started with "A" and "B."

Famously, Google also has statues for each of their dessert names on the lawn at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, and they’ve already added a jelly bean statue.

But Android is hardly the first tech system to have a series of clever code names: Intel calls each CPU version after a town or city. And then there’s Apple.

Android is Google’s answer to the iPhone, and Apple’s lauded iOS operating system. And while iOS versions are only known by their numbers, Apple’s desktop and laptop operating systems have gotten nicknames since the release of OS X (“version 10”--check out xkcd's helpful, if snarky, visual).

Mac OS X releases are named after big cats--the first known as “Cheetah” and the upcoming release as “Mountain Lion”--and there are several unverified theories behind the names. The notoriously secret Apple has obviously refused to comment.

Some fans have pointed out the similarity between Mac OS names and German World War II armored tanks.

For example, OS X 10.0, dubbed “Cheetah” corresponds to the Gepard (German for “cheetah”) anti-tank cannon. OS X 10.1 is called “Puma,” like the Puma armored fighting vehicle.

A blogger at Ormset helpfully offers a guess at the reasoning:

“But why does Mac OS X and german tank models share the same naming convention and other similarities? Could it be something having to do with the shared, well deserved, feeling of beeing the best in engineering on the respective fields? Maybe the tendency of both parties to respond well to strong leadership? The desire for total control over the different territories and the need to enforce this with great tanks, well organized armies, DRM and operating systems locked to run on specific hardware.”

Another theory looks to a series of the now-defunct Shaye computer systems, built to run compatible with older versions of Mac OS. Shaye systems have names like “Lion 200,” “Panther 200,” and “Tiger 200”--just like Apple’s software.

Whatever the source of these names, neither Apple, nor Google, is saying.

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