In what was an otherwise unremarkable changelog on Android’s open source code review site, one particular line was interesting. That line referenced “device/htc/flounder.” All who laid eyes on that began speculating that this was a first reference to a new Nexus device, though which is not as clear.
We know what “device” means, and in the context of devices, “htc” is not hard to guess at either. What of flounder? Well, Google has had a habit of using fish names as internal codenames for their Nexus devices. This changelog referred to some code changes being prepared for Android 4.4.3, which will likely debut alongside one or more new Nexus devices this summer.
Why would this be out in the open? Many do not realize that Android is an open source operating system. This means that the code for Android is always, eventually, made public. From there, it is free to use and modify, which is how Google enticed so many companies to use this project as a base operating system for their devices. While unreleased versions of the operating systems are often kept private, some code adjustments are made even to current versions to prepare for future changes.
Of course, after this report spread, Google decided to hide this changelog from the public. When an open source project like Android is purchased by a company like Google, “open” is always only true once the company is ready for that openness.
Back to the rumor, this isn’t the first evidence of a “flounder” device found in Google code. A code adjustment to the Chromium project, another Google-purchased open source project that is the base for Chrome, makes a reference to flounder.
What is still unclear is what form factor we’re dealing with, here. A new Nexus 7 or 8 would be expected sooner than a new Nexus 5 or 6, but HTC has been out of the tablet game for some time now. They haven’t yet participated in the Nexus program in any regard, but they once had a very close relationship with Google, releasing the very first Android device.
Despite the critical and commercial success of the HTC One, the Taiwanese company has not been doing so well financially. In a playing field absolutely dominated by Samsung, the long-term viability of HTC is in Android’s best interest as it has been Samsung’s strongest competitor for a while now.
Manufacturing a boatload of Nexus devices, whether phones or tablets, might help HTC stay alive and give Google some freedom from Samsung, who could exert pressure against Google if it gains too much Android market share.
Another device mentioned in these changelogs is simply referenced as “device/google/molly.” Google has not made any phones or tablets of its own, so it seems unlikely they have the equipment or know-how to start doing that with so little evidence beforehand. A later part of the log referencing “molly” uses the term “SET_TOP_BOX,” which suggests molly might be the re-emergence of Google TV, which The Verge reported will soon be released as Android TV.