Introduction

The Android platform is packing some serious heat these days in the mobile marketplace and gaining traction worldwide. The platform has seen numerous advancements in terms of SDK functionality, handset availability, and feature set. A wide diversity of Android handsets and devices are now shipping and (finally) in consumers' hands—and we're not just talking about phones: Android has begun to ship on netbooks, Internet tablets (such as the ARCHOS 5), ebook readers (like the Barnes & Noble nook), digital photo frames, and a variety of other consumer electronics. There are even proof-of-concept appliances such as an Android microwave and washer/dryer combo. (Hey, why not? See http://bit.ly/bGqmZp.) Mobile operators and carriers are taking the platform seriously and spending gazillions on ad campaigns for Android phones—like Verizon's Droid campaign.

In the past year or so, the Android platform has transitioned from a "gearheads-only" platform to providing some serious competition to more established platforms. (Yes, we're talking about platforms such as the iPhone.)

But let's not digress into an argument over whose platform is better so early, okay? Because, honestly, you're wasting your time if you think there's one platform to rule them all. The reality is, people the world over use different phones in different places (CDMA, GSM) and for different reasons (price, availability, coverage quality, feature set, design, familiarity, compatibility). There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this debate.

Having developed for just about every major mobile platform out there, we are keenly aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each platform. We do not presume to claim that one platform is better than another in general; each platform has distinct advantages over the rest, and these advantages can be maximized.

The trick is to know which platform to use for a given project. Sometimes, the answer is to use as many platforms as possible. Lately, we've been finding that the answer is the Android platform: It's inexpensive and easy to develop for, it's available to millions of potential users worldwide, and it has fewer limitations than other platforms.

Still, the Android platform is relatively young and has not yet reached its full-fledged potential. This means frequent SDK updates, an explosion of new devices on the market, and a nearly full-time job keeping track of everything going on in the Android world.

In other words, it may be a bit of a bumpy ride, but there's still time to jump on this bandwagon, write some kick-butt applications, and make a name for yourself.

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