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Google Android KitKat Branding Irks Environmentalists

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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Google hooks up with Nestle, seen by many as a corporate bad guy

The next version of Google’s mobile operating system will be called Android 4.4 “KitKat”, following an agreement with Nestlé. However, environmentalists are now calling for a boycott of the version.

As everyone knows, Android versions are named after sweets and desserts in an alphabetic series. The current version Jelly Bean has plenty of life, but Google had originally said its eventual replacement would be the somewhat obscurely-named Key Lime Pie. The “KitKat” name appears to have been derived from Google employees’ love of the chocolate snack, and seems to involve no financial payment in either direction.

The deal will see Nestlé selling 50 million Android-branded KitKat bars in the US, in exchange for the publicity. But Greenpeace and other environmental groups have run many campaigns against the food giant in the past. A recent campaign said palm oil consumption was destroying the rain forest, and Nestlé has been the subject of a long-running boycott over its promotion of powdered baby milk in the developing world.

Greenpeace announced that Nestlé has promised to stop using products from rainforest destruction. Nestlé says it has complied with baby milk marketing protocols for some time – but the boycott still continues and the company’s name provoked a swift reaction in some circles, after Google and Nestlé announced the deal.

Android KitKat 2Android KitKat confirmed

“Can’t wait to release the next version of the platform that is as sweet as the candy bar that’s one of our team’s favourites,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president at Google.

A promotional page offered few other details, but noted: “It’s our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody,” it read.

“Android is the operating system that powers over 1 billion smartphones and tablets. Since these devices make our lives so sweet, each Android version is named after a dessert:

“Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean. As everybody finds it difficult to stay away from chocolate we decided to name the next version of Android after one of our favourite chocolate treats, Kitkat.”

This is the first time Google has hooked up with another brand for an Android name. It appears to be something of a gentleman’s agreement.

“This is not a money-changing-hands kind of deal,” John Lagerling, director of Android global partnerships, told the BBC.

There have been outraged tweets, as many view Nestlé as a corporate bad guy, and feel the deal conflicts with Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto.  Several people are questioning whether they need to boycott Android now – or else call for a boycott as a way to draw attention to the multiple campaigns against Nestlé.

Greenpeace’s campaign, which wound up in 2010, said that Nestlé’s demand for palm oil led to deforestation which destroyed the habitat of orang utans. Nestlé rsponded to this, and to the campaign against its baby milk activity – and is being monitored by the International Baby Food Action Network, however Baby Milk Action is still campaigning against the company.

Greenpeace has yet to issue a statement on the announcement of Android 4.4 KitKat, but the UK office has promised to get back to us. In the meantime, its hard-hitting (and out-of-date) adverts criticising Nestlé are being co-opted. One video linking KitKats to dying orang utans has been reposted on Youtube with the title “Boycott Android 4.4 KitKat“.

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