The next version of Android will be called KitKat after the Nestle chocolate bar, and not Key Lime Pie, as was predicted for months, Google said Tuesday.
The news was an unexpected twist to many Android fans, who had expected the next big release would be numbered Android 5.0 and would be called Key Lime Pie, in keeping with Google's pattern of picking an Android update named after a sweet treat, starting with the next letter in the alphabet.
Google's Android Web site says the next version will be Android 4.4, called KitKat, with no mention of when it will be released or what it will include. Google had not officially ever called the next version Key Lime Pie, although it had used KLP in some written materials.
"Google didn't actually tell us much of anything today," wrote Computerworld blogger JR Raphael. "We got a name and a number -- and that's it."
Previous versions have been called Cupcake (Android 1.5), Donut (1.6), Eclair (2.0), Froyo, short for Frozen Yogurt, (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3), Honeycomb (3.0), Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Jelly Bean (4.1).
Google has also erected an Android KitKat statue on its corporate lawn, pictured in a short Google Plus post by Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps.
"Love the new #AndroidKitKat statue and can't wait to release the next version of the platform that is sweet as the candy bar that's one of our team's favorites," Pichai wrote.
Separately in Google Plus, Google said to watch for tickets to win a Nexus 7 tablet inside a limited edition of Android Kit Kat bars. Nestle uses a space between the words Kit and Kat for the chocolate bar, according to its Web site, but Android will run the two words together as one: KitKat, according to Google.
Why so much coverage and concern over a name for a smartphone and tablet operating system? Probably because Android now controls nearly 80% of the smartphone market and half of the tablet market, according to IDC and Gartner. That means Android already powers more than 1 billion smartphones and tablets.
When you're that big, you can choose any name you want, analysts said.
A few analysts couldn't resist poking fun at the name. "Now you can call your phone -- here Kitty!" quipped Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
KitKat is apparently a better name than some alternatives, even Key Lime Pie, or KoolAid, KrispyKreme donuts, Kahlua or Klondike, the ice cream bar, Gold said. "Maybe it's not so easy to find a K and this way they get a name brand to co-market with," he said.
Some brand experts have said that if Android 4.4 has any problems, it could tarnish the Kit Kat chocolate bar brand, but apparently that's not a concern for Swiss-based Nestle.
Google and Nestle decided on the name last November, and Nestle's marketing head, Patrice Bula, told the BBC that the decision took Nestle only an hour, even though he recognized there might be risks if Android 4.4 is vulnerable to malware. The name was kept secret for the past nine months so it would come as a surprise when it was finally revealed.
Google's John Lagerling, director of Android global partnerships, told the BBC that no money changed hands with Nestle and that picking the KitKat name was designed to do something "fun and unexpected" even as Google workers internally were still calling the next Android release Key Lime Pie.
Google also released a satirical YouTube video about KitKat that pokes fun at the style of recent iPhone and iPad videos.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.