Project Hera: where Android marries Chrome/the web to make the mother of all OSes
So, recent events made you think Google's lead in OS features is narrowing? Well, fear not, because Google, as usual, has something cooking:
Project Hera, as rumor names it, is apparently Android's marriage to the web. Web technology, and HTML5 in particular, will be leveraged to powerfully impact one of the OSes core strengths: multitasking.
Boiled down, the multitasking view will morph into "an HTML5-powered intermediate UI, where users can execute quick actions online without using the full app."
Hera will essentially allow the OS to execute certain tasks that usually happen within an app, without opening the App itself. Kind of how you can now archive an email from the notification shade without entering Gmail, but with much greater reach and power.
Think of something like this: you get an invite to an event. You can now accept the invite and make any related changes to your calendar from the multitasking view, rather than leaving your current app and entering the Calendar app. The Calendar app is still powering the action, but the experience across many apps now has a unified front end.
I'd assume you can still go into the app and do more complex tasks. But things like replying to emails, or carrying on a chat in hangouts, can happen without entering those apps.
My take away from this is that notifications and multitasking are merging to make a new UI paradigm. Instead of showing you notifications separately, and having a static view of app instances, we get a merged space that shows you your tasks. Leveraging the web using a special Chromium build for Android, you can complete these tasks in a unified UI Google gets to control.
The possibilities for this are endless. You can, say, open a link (from an email or message), read the content, then post it on Facebook all without having to open three individual apps. Which means for the user, three parts of the OS, the notification shade, the multitasking menu, and the homescreen, are now kind of rolled into one. The UI reflects Android's ability to not just intuit how you'll perform a series of tasks, but to give you a seamless way to perform those tasks.
This sounds like a masterful way to draw on Google's greatest strengths to make for a unified, smooth incredibly powerful OS. And in the future, (or even in the first release), imagine Google Now and voice being integrated into Hera. Now you can use your voice to direct incredibly complex series of tasks, like "post that link mom sent me to Facebook, and say "Thanks for the link, Mom", and the OS just does it...