After announcing yesterday that its Android mobile operating system is now active on 2 billion devices, Google is targeting its next billion users with a new initiative called Android Go.

Unveiled during the opening keynote at Google's I/O developer conference running from May 17-19 in Mountain View, Calif., Android Go is a stripped-down version of the OS designed for low-end mobile phones with limited data, connectivity and memory.

Android Go is set to make its appearance in 2018 and will target Android devices with memories up to and including 1 GB. Ahead of that, however, Google plans to incorporate aspects of Android Go's goals into the next version of its OS, Android O, expected to be released later this summer.

Working To Optimize Mobile OS

Writing yesterday on Google's Android Developers Blog, Dave Burke, vice president of engineering, described some of the new features that will arrive with Android O. They include Android Vitals, a project to optimize systems and provide performance dashboards so users can better pinpoint problems, and "fluid experiences" to streamline app performance, manage multiple tasks at once and make apps smarter with machine learning capabilities.

Google yesterday also released the preview 2 public beta version of Android O for developers. As it works to prepare its next mobile OS update, Google will also keep a focus on its new Android Go initiative, Burke said.

"Part of Android's mission is to bring computing to everyone," Burke wrote in his blog post. "We're excited about seeing more users come online for the first time as the price of entry level smart phones drop, and we want to help manufacturers continue to offer lower-cost devices that provide a great experience for these users."

In addition to optimizing Android O for lower-end devices, Google is also tweaking other apps such as YouTube, Google Play, Chrome, and Gboard to use less memory, storage space, and mobile data, Burke said. To help developers fine-tune their own apps, Google has launched a "Building for Billions" Web page with technical tools and checklists for handling devices with a variety of connectivity, range, data management, and battery capabilities.

'Building for Billions' Playbook

Android developers have a "huge opportunity" to expand their reach and build their businesses by creating apps with entry-level users in mind, Google said in "The Building for Billions Playbook."

"Today, hundreds of millions of users are coming online for the first time and, for the majority, their first online experience will be on a smartphone," the book noted. "Most of these users are in emerging markets. Many will be using low-cost or second-hand phones and their data access may be limited by network coverage or cost. There will also be a wide range of cultural, language and educational backgrounds you'll need to consider."

As of late 2016, 95 percent of the world's 7 billion-plus population now has access to cellular coverage and "there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people on earth," according to the International Telecommunication Union's "Measuring the Information Society" report.

More details about Android O and Android Go are expected to emerge today during the second day of Google I/O. Today's program also includes sessions on the future of Web payments, bringing Google Assistant to any device, the future of immersive computing, security for Internet of Things devices, enterprise IoT developments and home automation with Google Assistant.