For a long time Android has had the reputation of being ugly. Since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, that's changing.
I just happened to take a look at the android docs (looking at Data Backup) and noticed they've revamped the whole developer documentation site. It now more-or-less matches their Android Design guidelines page, which accompanied Ice Cream Sandwich.
This is pretty important for Google if they want to compete with Microsoft's Metro UI. Although Microsoft has plenty of their own humps that they have to overcome, including some unsurprising Windows 8 bashing from various authors, consensus is that Metro is visually pleasing, arguably even more so than both ICS and Apple's iOS.
The recent announcement of Microsoft's Surface Tablet also spells some trouble for Google. The tablet-plus-full-keyboard device is intended to fill the niche that Windows 8 will be creating with its new gesture-and-keyboard hybrid UI.
No wonder, then, that on the new Android developer site, Design is first and Develop second. Sure, it only makes sense since the tabs are, in order: Design, Develop, Distribute, which matches the typical way of making an app. But the fact that they now, unlike before, lay that out so explicitly, ushering newcomers to look at the entire Design section first, is quite telling of Google's current position in the mobile ecosystem and mindshare.
It's definitely a larger trend in tech these days, where Design and Simplicity are king, and as for actual features, less is often more. It's clear that the big players, beginning with Apple five years ago and now Google and Microsoft, are really drinking the Kool-Aid. And so are thousands of developers who keep up with the latest trends. This is a great thing; I'd love to see every app I use be eye candy. I'd love to design some beautiful and functional apps. Just interesting how everyone seems to be "getting it" at the same time.
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