At the recent Google I/O 2008 conference, Jason Chen from the Android team presented a 90 minute introduction to Google's new software platform for mobile devices. Since I've written about Android basics before I'll just cover some of the points that were new or previously unclear.
All the source code to Android is currently available to Google's Open Handset Alliance (OHA) partners. The general public will gain access to the source code when the first handset ships. At that time, Android will be called "version 1.0".
Once version 1.0 comes out and the source is available, anyone in the world will be able to download and port Android to any phone (or other device) they want. This question came up several times during the conference so it bears repeating: You don't have to be an OHA member and you don't have to sign anything or ask anyone's permission to put Android on a new phone. But you do have to wait until version 1.0 is released.
And when will that be? Google would not give any specific dates other than "the 2nd half of 2008". When pressed, a Google source said it wasn't really their call alone. The release date is largely up to OHA members, especially the manufacturers making the phones and the carriers who will sell and distribute them.
After his presentation, Jason opened up the floor for questions...
Q. What if somebody wants to build an application that is similar to a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that can run other programs. What security implications are there for these kinds of applications? A. It's possible to do but we haven't thought about it. There is a large security team working on Android. There are languages that are working to port their bytecode to the Dalvik VM, so it won't just be for the Java language.
Q. Traditionally carriers rip out things. What steps do you take to prevent somebody like Cingular from making an "almost-Android" phone? A. They could do that if they wanted because it's open source. But Android is a complete stack of software so why would you want to break it? There's value in a full stack and in a lot of applications. There's no incentive to alter it in ways that wouldn't be compatible. We want manufacturers and operators to customize in ways they can differentiate. They don't all have to have the same home screen, the same look and feel, and so forth but they should be able to run any Android apps.
Q. When do developers get hardware? A. When everybody else does (when retail phones are for sale).
Q. Does Android platform development follow the JSR (Java Specification Request) model? A. Android is not Java technology. It uses the Java programming language but Dalvik is not a JVM. It's not claiming to be Java tech.
Q. Is support for Flash lite planned? A. Not at the moment.
Q. Will there be an SDK for PPC Macs? A. Don't think so. Just Intel.
Q. Will you have aesthetic standards like the iPhone? A. We're working with UI designers to put out a user interface guideline. Also android provides standard UI widgets.