Google's Android team has been pushing new versions of the operating system at a furious pace since the first Android device hit the market in 2008. Lots of features have been added over the last couple of years. But the user experience hasn't evolved much.
That's all going to change in the next version, we've heard from multiple sources close to Google.
The team more or less has the core features they want at this point, say our sources, although more tweaks are certainly coming. But Google wants to put an end to the desire of handset manufacturers and carriers to add their own UI layer on top of Google - things like Sense, Motoblur, Ninjablur, etc.
Most of the time their shells aren't all that great anyway (see HTC EVO), and they tend to slow down the device.
Google is focusing the bulk of its efforts on the user experience for the upcoming Gingerbread release to counter this. And they want to get the Android experience closer to the iPhone.
It's unlikely that third parties will ever completely resist the temptation to meddle to differentiate their products and to get more control over the user. But Google's goal is to make those "skins" as pointless as possible.
That's a big goal, particularly since Android is a flexible operating system that is designed to handle a variety of hardware options. When you don't lock down the hardware it's very hard to make the UI perfect. Which is why Apple's Macs, with locked down hardware, have always been a better experience than the hugely hardware-flexible Windows operating system.