Google says too few people knew how Key Lime Pie tasted to name it that

After being stuck on "Jelly Bean" (Android 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) for over a year, people were starting to wonder when the next major name change might land for the world's most used mobile operating system.

I. Android 4.4 is Android "KitKat"

Well the wait is over, with Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android chief Sundar Pichai posting a picture on Twitter that confirms that the next version of Android will be dubbed "KitKat" and will have the version number Android 4.4.

KitKats are popular chocolate bars with a crunchy biscuit inside stick shaped pieces.  The confection is made by Swiss candy and beverage company Nestle SA (VTX:NESN).  The announcement took many by surprise as the rumor was that Google was going to adopt the more brand agnostic dessert "Key Lime Pie".  Google was also rumored to bump the version number to 5.0.

II. No Key Lime Pie For You

John Lagerling -- Google's director of Android global partnerships -- told BBC News in an interview today that the branding was indeed a corporate tieup, but that Google was not paid to use the name.  He says that the decision was meant to be "fun and unexpected", remarking, "This is not a money-changing-hands kind of deal."

KitKat Android

He elaborates on why Key Lime Pie was not selected, stating:

We realised that very few people actually know the taste of a key lime pie.  One of the snacks that we keep in our kitchen for late-night coding are KitKats. And someone said: 'Hey, why don't we call the release KitKat?'

We didn't even know which company controlled the name, and we thought that [the choice] would be difficult. But then we thought well why not, and we decided to reach out to the Nestle folks.

Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie wasn't a popular enough dessert treat, Google says.

Responding to Google's "cold call", Nestle jumped at the opportunity to score free advertising.  Patrice Bula, Nestle's marketing chief, told BBC News:

Very frankly, we decided within an hour to say let's do it.  When you try to lead a new way of communicating and profiling a brand you always have a higher risk than doing something much more traditional [but] you can go round the swimming pool 10 times wondering if the water is cold or hot or you say: 'Let's jump.'

The companies met to finalize their plans at a secret meeting at February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  Even after the plan was finalized, Google employed a bit of misidirection to throw the blogsophere off KitKat's scent.  Explains Mr. Lagerling, "We kept calling the name Key Lime Pie internally and even when we referred to it with partners."

III. Google, Nestle Nexus 7 Giveaway is Incoming

Google is launching a global promotion with Nestle to give away free Nexus 7 tablets or Google Play store credit for customers who find winning KitKat wrappers.  A Nestle page reveals the promotion will start on Sept. 6.

KitKat buyers will have a chance to win a Nexus 7.

While it remains unknown what improvements will be squeezed into the new OS, it's likely that KitKat will include greater support for wearable devices, including the currently buzzed-about smartwatch form factor.

Along with the name announcement Mr. Pichai also revealed that Google has logged its billionth Android activation.  Gartner Inc. (IT) had predicted in April that Android would not crack the billion mark until next year, however, it remains unclear whether there are a billion active Android devices in the wild yet.
Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai became Android's chief in May. [Image Source: Reuters]
While Google is outselling Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Windows PCs today, it is probably that active Windows devices still outnumber Android devices (although the comparison is slightly silly, given the devices' different purposes).  In 2011 there were 1.25 billion PCs in the wild.  Google surely has the most cellular-capable devices of any OS platform, though.

Sources: Google, Google's Sundar Pichai on Twitter, BBC News

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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