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As Google's Android tops 1B activations, next version gets named 'KitKat'

Google's Android operating system has now passed one billion total device activations, the company announced on Tuesday, and the milestone comes as the search giant is gearing up to release the next version of its popular mobile operating system, which will be named after a familiar chocolate treat.

Sundar Pichai, head of Google's Android, confirmed in a tweet that the mobile operating system had passed one billion activations on Tuesday. Android is by far the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, installed on three out of four smartphones sold worldwide and an increasing number of tablets.

Pichai's announcement could mean that the pace of Android installations is accelerating. In mid-May, at its Google I/O developer conference, the search giant announced that it had seen 900 million total activations to date, meaning that as many as 100 million devices have been activated since then.

By comparison, it took Android two years to reach the 100 million mark in 2011. The platform hit the 400 million mark in 2012, meaning it has added 600 million more in a little over a year.

Even as Pichai touted Android's newest milestone, his tweet revealed yet another detail that had been much anticipated among the Android fan base: the name of the next operating system. Google initially introduced the mobile operating system in 2009, under the moniker Cupcake, with the goal of breaking itself off a piece of the burgeoning smartphone sector. Subsequent major updates have gotten their own dessert-themed names, each in alphabetical order: Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwhich, and most recently Jelly Bean.

Now, by tweeting an image of the newest take on the Android mascot, Pichai confirmed that Android version 4.4 will be named KitKat, after the chocolate, crispy crunch bar originally created by Rowntree's of York, England, but now sold in the U.S. by Hershey and worldwide by Nestlé.

The news comes as something of a surprise to much of the Android community, which had largely settled on Key Lime Pie as the presumptive next Android version. The retention of the Android 4.x numeration would seem to indicate that KitKat will be more of a refinement than a considerable leap from Jelly Bean, much as Jelly Bean cleaned up some of the more nagging issues in Ice Cream Sandwich.

The KitKat description on Google's page reads only "It's our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody." While the exact meaning of the description is unclear, Google has been rumored to be working to make the next version of its operating system more compatible across devices, with the aim of reducing Android's fragmentation problem without damaging its relationship with manufacturers.

The release of Android 4.4 will, according to Google's own page for the announcement, come alongside a contest hosted by Kit Kat. The company behind the candy bar will be looking to give customers a break in the form of a free Nexus 7 tablet or Google Play credit, which customers can win by buying special Android-branded Kit Kat bars in stores.

Kit Kat has joined in on the cross-marketing effort as well. The candy company followed Google's announcement with its own video, one that plays on the standard tropes of mobile device advertisements in order to tout "Kit Kat 4.4 — The future of confectionery."