Halo UI Required As Baseline
The Android team took a big step yesterday when they announced that the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Holo theme family is now required to be included unmodified as the baseline system theme for all new Android 4.0 devices if manufacturers want Market access. This includes widgets also and is being implemented as a way to give the Android ecosystem a more unified and consistent feel throughout the array of different apps and devices.
This is a very smart move on Google's part and it will help fight the number one knock on Android fragmentation. However, where this will have the most impact is in alleviating much of the stress Android app developers go through giving them an easy way to ensure they can deliver a uniform experience on all phones and tablets quickly and easily.
To be clear this does not signal an end to the infamous manufacturer interfaces like Sense and TouchWiz. It does thankfully build into the OS a clear distinction between the two, which is one of main reasons it takes manufacturers so long to update their devices to the newest versions. They no longer have to adapt each aspect of their theme when updating because this separates it from the core OS, so they don't have to worry about each app playing nice making it a much speedier process.
Android Market access is the only real bargaining chip Google has with the free and open ecosystem of Android to keep device makers in line with where they want to bring our beloved OS. This move brings the platform another step forward for all parties consumers, developers, and manufacturers.