Google Calling: Inside Android, the gphone SDK

Google Calling: Inside Android, the gphone SDK

Brian DeLacey did an article for O’Reilly’s “Google Calling: Inside Android, the gPhone SDK”

He interviewed me last week on the subject and he notes ..


The Key to Success? Developers

Chetan Sharma has advised a number of companies in the mobile ecosystem, including members of the Open Handset Alliance. The title to his forthcoming book, Mobile Advertising: Supercharge Your Brand in the Exploding Wireless Market, highlights the underlying economics driving this innovation. Sharma shared his observations:

I think overall, this is a very positive announcement. It means that Google is very serious about mobile. We have heard some rumblings in the past but no substantive initiatives. Now, it seems, Google is willing to take the fight to the carriers and to Microsoft (Nokia, RIM, and others).

Ultimately, the key success factor for Android is this: developers need distribution. Period. Developers can build the most innovative application on the weakest OS given a chance. Enhancements to OS and flexibility in application development are always good, but what really matters is distribution. How easy and expensive is it to get my application to a point where users can play and pay for it? Does Android solve that problem? Will developers have to go through some complicated process to get an application visible to the phone’s owner and network subscriber?

Sharma also raised a practical concern echoed by a number of developers: “Will multiple implementations or adaptations of Android by different handset makers and service providers require that developers create multiple versions of the same application?” If that is the case, Sharma believes Android will just be a YAP (yet another platform) that developers have to painfully consider. Instead, Sharma sees real promise for Google and the Open Handset Alliance to advance the debate around “open access” and crack open the “walled gardens” that have kept phone users immobilized as captive customers in the past.

The fear of fragmentation is something that Google is thinking of too. Mike explained that there was nothing in the license (or underlying technology) to prevent vendors from making these kind of fragmenting changes. However, Mike is confident that consumer opinion will have a significant impact and encourage vendors not to create incompatibles.

One major benefit I see in using the Apache license is that handset manufacturers can take the Android platform and develop their own hardware level drivers before burning it onto devices. Apache licensing allows handset manufacturers to customize in a way that meets business needs without being forced to release incremental intellectual property created for proprietary hardware or drivers. It may not be ideal, but it is practical: this will accelerate openness and adoption among handset vendors who have very little to lose by offering at least compatibility with Android, but would never consider releasing their low-level device interfaces as open source software.