The Role of Google

Although Android is officially the brainchild of the Open Handset Alliance, Google is the clear leader when it comes to implementing Android itself as well as providing the necessary ecosystem for Android to grow.

The Android Open Source Project

Google's efforts are summarized under the name Android Open Source Project. Most of the code is licensed under Apache License 2, a very open and nonrestrictive license compared to other open source licenses such as the GNU General Public License (GPL). Everyone is free to use this source code to build their own systems. However, systems that are claimed to be Android compatible first have to pass the Android Compatibility

Program, a process ensuring baseline compatibility with third-party applications written by developers like us. Compatible systems are allowed to participate in the Android ecosystem, which also includes the Android Market.

The Android Market

The Android Market was opened to the public in October 2008 by Google. It's an online software store that enables users to find and install third-party applications. The market is generally accessible only through the market application on a device. This situation will change in the near future, according to Google, which promises the deployment of a desktop-based online store accessible via the browser.

The market allows third-party developers to publish their applications either for free or as paid applications. Paid applications are available for purchase in only about 30 countries. Selling applications as a developer is possible in a slightly smaller number. Table 1-1 shows you the countries in which apps can be bought and sold.

Table 1-1. Purchase and Selling Options per Country.

Country User Can Purchase Apps Developer Can Sell Apps

Australia Yes Yes

Austria Yes Yes

Belgium Yes Yes

Brazil Yes Yes

Canada Yes Yes

Czech Republic Yes No

Denmark Yes Yes

Finland Yes Yes

France Yes Yes

Germany Yes Yes

Hong Kong Yes Yes

Hungary Yes Yes

India Yes Yes

Ireland Yes Yes

Country User Can Purchase Apps Developer Can Sell Apps

Israel

Yes

Yes

Italy

Yes

Yes

Japan

Yes

Yes

Mexico

Yes

Yes

Netherlands

Yes

Yes

New Zealand

Yes

Yes

Norway

Yes

Yes

Pakistan

Yes

No

Poland

Yes

No

Portugal

Yes

Yes

Russia

Yes

Yes

Singapore

Yes

Yes

South Korea

Yes

Yes

Spain

Yes

Yes

Sweden

Yes

Yes

Switzerland

Yes

Yes

Taiwan

Yes

Yes

United Kingdom

Yes

Yes

United States

Yes

Yes

Users get access to the market after setting up a Google account. Applications can be bought only via credit card at the moment. Buyers can decide to return an application within 15 minutes from the time of purchasing it and will receive a full refund. Previously, the refund time window was 24 hours. The recent change to 15 minutes has not been well received by end users.

Developers need to register an Android Developer account with Google for a one-time fee of $25 in order to be able to publish applications on the market. After successful registration, a developer can immediately start to publish a new application in a matter of minutes.

The Android Market has no approval process but relies on a permission system. A user is presented with a set of permissions needed by an application before the installation of the program. These permissions handle access to phone services, networking access, access to the Secure Digital (SD) card, and so on. Only after a user has approved these permissions is the application installed. The system relies on the user doing the right thing. On the PC, especially on Windows systems, this concept didn't work out too well. On Android, it seems to have worked so far; only a few of applications have been pulled from the market because of malicious behavior.

To sell applications, a developer has to additionally register a Google Checkout Merchant Account, which is free of charge. All financial business is handled through this account.

Challenges, Device Seeding, and Google I/O

In an ongoing effort to draw more developers to the Android platform, Google started to hold challenges. The first challenge, called the Android Developer Challenge (ADC) was launched in 2008, offering relatively high cash prices for the winning projects. The ADC was carried out in the subsequent year and was again a huge success in terms of developer participation. There was no ADC in 2010, which can probably be attributed to Android now having a considerable developer base and thus not needing any further actions to get new developers on board.

Google also started a device-seeding program in early 2010. Each developer who had one or more applications on the market with more than 5,000 downloads and an average user rating of 3.5 stars or above received a brand new Motorola Droid, Motorola Milestone, or Nexus One phone. This was a very well-received action within the developer community, although it was initially met with disbelief. Many considered the email notifications that came out of the blue to be an elaborate hoax. Fortunately, the promotion turned out to be a reality, and thousands of devices were sent to developers across the planet—a great move by Google to keep its third-party developers happy and make them stick with the platform and to potentially attract new developers.

Google also provides the special Android Dev Phone (ADP) for developers. The first ADP was a version of the T-Mobile G1 (also known as HTC Dream). The next iteration, called ADP 2, was a variation of the HTC Magic. Google also released its own phone in the form of the Nexus One, available to end users. Although initially not released as an ADP, it was considered by many as the successor to the ADP 2. Google eventually stopped selling the Nexus One to end users, and it is now available for shipment only to partners and developers. At the end of 2010, the latest ADP was released; this Samsung device running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is called the Nexus S. ADPs can be bought via the Android Market, which requires you to have a developer account. The Nexus S can be bought via a separate Google site at www.google.com/phone.

The annual Google I/O conference is an event every Android developer looks forward to each year. At Google I/O, the latest and greatest Google technologies and projects are revealed, among which Android has gained a special place in recent years. Google I/O usually features multiple sessions on Android-related topics, which are also available as videos on YouTube's Google Developers channel.

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