What Makes Android Special

There are already many mobile platforms on the market today, including Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Java Mobile Edition, Linux Mobile (LiMo), and more. When I tell people about Android, their first question is often, Why do we need another mobile standard? Where's the "wow"?

Although some of its features have appeared before, Android is the first environment that combines the following:

• A truly open, free development platform based on Linux and open source: Handset makers like it because they can use and customize the platform without paying a royalty. Developers like it because they know that the platform "has legs" and is not locked into any one vendor that may go under or be acquired.

• A component-based architecture inspired by Internet mashups: Parts of one application can be used in another in ways not originally envisioned by the developer. You can even replace built-in components with your own improved versions. This will unleash a new round of creativity in the mobile space.

• Tons of built-in services out of the box: Location-based services use GPS or cell tower triangulation to let you customize the user experience depending on where you are. A full-powered SQL database lets you harness the power of local storage for occasionally connected computing and synchronization. Browser and map views can be embedded directly in your applications. All these built-in capabilities help raise the bar on functionality while lowering your development costs.

• Automatic management of the application life cycle: Programs are isolated from each other by multiple layers of security, which will provide a level of system stability not seen before in smart phones. The end user will no longer have to worry about what applications are active or close some programs so that others can run. Android is optimized for low-power, low-memory devices in a fundamental way that no previous platform has attempted.

• High-quality graphics and sound: Smooth, antialiased 2D vector graphics and animation inspired by Flash are melded with 3D-accelerated OpenGL graphics to enable new kinds of games and business applications. Codecs for the most common industry-standard audio and video formats are built right in, including H.264 (AVC), MP3, and AAC.

• Portability across a wide range of current and future hardware: All your programs are written in Java and executed by Android's Dalvik virtual machine, so your code will be portable across ARM, x86, and other architectures. Support for a variety of input methods is included such as keyboard, touch, and trackball. User interfaces can be customized for any screen resolution and orientation.

Android offers a fresh take on the way mobile applications interact with users, along with the technical underpinnings to make it possible. But the best part of Android is the software that you are going to write for it. This book will help you get off to a great start.

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