Now that we've provided a brief introduction to the Android Platform, we'll describe how it appeared on the mobile-development scene. Mobile phones use a variety of operating systems such as Symbian OS, Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Mobile Linux, iPhone OS (based on Mac OS X), and many other proprietary OSs. Supporting standards and publishing APIs would greatly encourage widespread, low-cost development of mobile applications, but none of these OSs has taken a clear lead in doing so. Then Google entered the space with its Android Platform, promising openness, affordability, open source code, and a high-end development framework.
Google acquired the startup company Android Inc. in 2005 to start the development of the Android Platform (see Figure 1-3). The key players at Android Inc. included Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White.
2008 ■ 2008 T-Mobile G1 Announced M SDK 1.0 Released
2007 OHA Announced
2007 Early Look SDK
Google Buys Android Inc. Work on Dalvik VM Starts
Android Open Sourced
Figure 1-3. Android timeline
In late 2007, a group of industry leaders came together around the Android Platform to form the Open Handset Alliance (http://www.openhandsetalliance.com). Some of the alliance's prominent members include
• Sprint Nextel
• Sony Ericsson
• Texas Instruments
Part of the alliance's goal is to innovate rapidly and respond better to consumer needs, and its first key outcome was the Android Platform. Android was designed to serve the needs of mobile operators, handset manufacturers, and application developers. The members have committed to release significant intellectual property through the open source Apache License, Version 2.0.
Note Handset manufacturers do not need to pay any licensing fees to load Android on their handsets or devices.
The Android SDK was first issued as an "early look" release in November 2007. In September 2008, T-Mobile announced the availability of the T-Mobile G1, the first smartphone based on the Android Platform. A few days after that, Google announced the availability of Android SDK Release Candidate 1.0. In October 2008, Google made the source code of the Android Platform available under Apache's open source license.
When Android was released, one of its key architectural goals was to allow applications to interact with one another and reuse components from one another. This reuse not only applies to services, but also to data and UI. As a result, the Android Platform has a number of architectural features that keep this openness a reality. We'll delve into some of these features in Chapter 3.
Android has also attracted an early following because of its fully developed features to exploit the cloud-computing model offered by web resources and to enhance that experience with local data stores on the handset itself. Android's support for a relational database on the handset also played a part in early adoption.
In late 2008 Google released a handheld device called Android Dev Phone 1 that is capable of running Android applications without being tied to any cell phone provider network. The goal of this device (approximate cost $400.00) is to allow developers to experiment with a real device that can run the Android OS with out any contracts. At around the same time, Google also released a bug fix version 1.1 of the OS that is solely based on 1.0. In releases 1.0 and 1.1 Android did not support soft keyboards, requiring the devices to carry physical keys. Android fixed this issue by releasing the 1.5 SDK in April of 2009, along with a number of other features, such as advanced media-recording capabilities, widgets, and live folders. The last two chapters of this book are dedicated to exploring the features from this 1.5 SDK.
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