There is much kerfuffling going on right now about the news that, shock horror, paid-for apps will soon appear in the Android Marketplace. Um, isn't that what marketplaces are for?
Far more interesting is the news that Google's accessibility guru, TV Raman, is working on how to get Android working for the visually impaired. Raman, who is himself blind, was profiled by the New York Times a couple of days ago. From the article:
Since he cannot precisely hit a button on a touch screen, Mr. Raman created a dialer that works based on relative positions. It interprets any place where he first touches the screen as a 5, the center of a regular telephone dial pad. To dial any other number, he simply slides his finger in its direction — up and to the left for 1, down and to the right for 9, and so on. If he makes a mistake, he can erase a digit simply by shaking the phone, which can detect motion.
He and [Google engineer Charles] Chen are testing several other input methods. None of these technologies have been rolled out, but Mr. Raman, who is already using the G1 as his primary cellphone, hopes to make them freely available soon."
The brilliant thing about Raman's work, which has long been admirable in any case for addressing the needs of the disabled, is that it could very well have utility for everyone, fully-sighted or not. If the iPhone taught us anything, it was that usability is king - in the long term, clever thinking around accessibility just feeds onto that same road.