With no software yet released, Google throws up hurdles to vendors and
Android may have generated a lot of buzz in the wireless community, but one
thing it hasn’t yet generated is an actual operating system. Google has revealed
its partners and detailed its plans for an opensource mobile content platform.
It’s even released a software development kit. But it has yet to release the
source code to Android, which any handset or consumer electronics manufacturer
needs to build their devices.
Google has released the initial Android Linux kernel, but the full software
stack and the individual application programming interfaces that will meld with
the basic functions of the phone—dialer, address book, media player, etc.have
yet to emerge. Google doesn’t appear too worried. Its Android developer’s site
doesn’t even list a date for its eventual launch: “Over time, more of the code
that makes up Android will be released, but at this point, we have been
concentrating on shipping an SDK that helps application developers get started.
In short: Stay tuned.”
Under normal circumstances, such a situation would make it difficult to launch a
new phone platform. Without the source code, device makers can’t commit to
building devices. Without committed vendors, carriers can’t commit to supporting
the phones on their networks. And without carrier or vendor commitments, no app
developerat least not one intending to make any money—can commit to developing
software or content for the those devices.
But Google has managed to circumvent those problems by collecting its
commitments ahead of Android’s launch under the auspices of the Open Handset
Alliance. Motorola, Samsung, LG Electronics and HTC have all agreed to build
Android devices, while Sprint, TMobile, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, China Mobile,
Telefónicaand Telecom Italia have all agreed to launch said devices (presumably
these companies got a sneak peak at the software stack they’ve all committed to
support). Add the semiconductor companies like Intel, Texas Instruments and
Qualcomm that have signed on to supply silicon hearty enough to support
Android’s highend multimedia capabilities, and Google’s got itself quite the
But that still leaves many device makers and almost all applications developers
out in the cold. Even the device makers in the Open Handset Alliance won’t be
able to fully realize their phone designs until they have the commercially
released software to tinker with. Applications developers have the SDK and an
Android emulator to work with, but until a working Android phone is available,
they can’t test out their software on anything but a computer screen, and they
certainly can’t integrate them with other developers’ applications.
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