RealTime IT News

Google's Android SDK Comes Alive

Google took several steps to goose interest in its yet-to-be-released Android platform for mobile phones today. The Open Handset Alliance, sponsored by Google and others, released a software development kit for Android. Google also hopes to stir up developer interest with a coding cook-off that will give out $10 million in awards.

Within hours of its release, the Android SDK had become "one of the most downloaded items ever" off Google's developer site, according to company spokesman Barry Schnitt. The toolkit, which included an emulator for software testing and a plugin for the Eclipse development tool, drew immediate reactions from developers ranging from "phenomenally cool" to "a bit disappointing".

The toolkit is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license, opening it up for wide repackaging with other developer tools. Google's Schnitt said that thus far there are no application tool partnerships to announce; however, the toolkit comes with an Eclipse plugin, so it is ready to integrate into many Java development environments.

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz has already committed to Sun providing support for Android in its NetBeans integrated development environment. In his weblog, Schwartz congratulated Google, and said, "I'd also like Sun to be the first platform software company to commit to a complete developer environment around the platform, as we throw Sun's NetBeans developer platform for mobile devices behind the effort. We've obviously done a ton of work to support developers on all Java-based platforms, and were pleased to add Google's Android to the list."

The Android SDK is based primarily on Java. However, it isn't based on J2ME, the version of Java already supported by existing commercial handsets; instead, it relies on a subset of the standard Java API

"In my opinion this is all a bit disappointing," wrote Jilles van Gurp, a developer who works at the Nokia Research Center, in his personal weblog. "Not aligning with an existing profile of Java is a design choice that is regrettable. It makes Android incompatible with everything else out there which is unnecessary in my view. Additionally, Android seems to duplicate a lot of existing functionality from full Java, J2ME and various open source projects. I’m sure that in each case there is some reason for it but the net result seems reinvention of a lot of wheels"

For its part, Google is doing its best to seed developer enthusiasm. The company announced a $10 million "Android Developer Challenge", a two-phase bake-off that will reward the "the developers whose applications leverage all that the Android platform has to offer in order to provide consumers with the most compelling experiences," a release from Google read. Individual prizes will range from $25,000 to $275,000, and developers who enter the contest will retain all intellectual property and other rights to their applications.

The challenge, according to Schnitt, evolved from an internal competition Google staged during early testing of the tools. "We gave away five or six Nintendo Wii [game systems] internally," he said. "The creativity and quality of the applications that came from outside of the mobile area within Google were actually more interesting than the ones that came from within. That's another reason we're hoping to get this broadly out there, to even people who aren’t necessarily mobile developers."