In a short space of time since its debut, the pace of development of the Android OS has been breathtaking, with more and more new features and improved performance with every new release. The latest version, Android 2.2 Froyo, is probably the biggest leap forward yet.
That said, for most Android users out there, it's common to have a manufacturer-added custom UI running on top of Android, such as HTC's Sense UI, unless you own Google's Nexus One where you get the plain vanilla version. So far Google has been happy to let its manufacturing partners customize the UI while it focused on everything else under the hood, but that may be about to change.
TechCrunch reports that multiple sources close to Google have stated that the Android team is now happy with the core features and performance of the OS and will now be focusing a lot more on enhancing the UI design and user experience for the next version of the software. That's not to say new features will be neglected, as more are certainly on the way, but Google seems to want to unify all Android devices with an improved UI and user experience negating the need for custom skins, which the company feels generally add little and can sometimes lead to lower performance.
So we can expect a lot of improvements to these areas in the next version of Android codenamed Gingerbread. The company has stated it wants to bring the user experience closer to the iPhone, which is still viewed by most as the leader in the area. A big indicator of these intentions was the recent addition to the Android team of Palm's Matias Duarte, the former leader behind the design of Palm's webOS who is now the User Experience Director of Android. At this point it's uncertain whether Google will insist on all manufacturers not adding custom skins, or simply hoping the new improvements will detract from their implementation. But will there be difficulties from the large variety of hardware that makes up all the Android devices on the market? Would you miss HTC's Sense UI even if Google improves the stock UI of Android?