In a move that hopefully other mobile phone OS companies will follow, Google is now offering a free Android device to developers who have at least one application in the Android Market with a rating of 3.5 stars or higher and more than 5,000 unique downloads.
According to a post by a developer, he was sent an e-mail from Google since he qualified as part of Google's developer device seeding program. In his case, he's entitled to either a Droid or Nexus One, based on where he is in the world.
I think that this is a great idea and one that I hope will catch on with Apple and more importantly, Microsoft, as the company brings its Windows Phone 7 Series to market. Initially I was thinking that most of the developers who have apps that qualify probably have their own Android device, but even if they did, they now get rewarded with a state-of-the-art Android device, which will only continue to encourage them to develop for the platform.
Google is facing a pretty severe game of catch up in the App Store race. At last count they had a bit over 20,000 apps, compared to Apple's more than 140,000. That said, it's more about quality than quantity, so one could argue that there are more than enough apps available for Android devices.
The next thing Google needs to do to get more developers in the game is to offer a more affordable developer-only Android device. They're sort of doing this with the Nexus One, but maybe the company can put out a lower-end Android phone that developers can pick up unlocked, too?
It will be interesting to see what this program will do for Android development overall, since other developers who may have apps in the Android Market may enhance them in hopes of getting a higher rating and more downloads.
Regardless of what happens next, it's a great idea and one that can only have a positive affect on Android development.