Android Watch: Tracking Google's mobile progress
Since formally announcing its much-anticipated Android open-source mobile operating system late last year, web services giant Google has played its cards tight to the vest. Even with the first Android-based devices slated to hit the market within the next few months, myriad developmental questions remain, with few if any guidelines to suggest just how much latitude developers can expect. Google's wireless head Rich Miner has publicly stated that basic Android parameters are in place, spanning from screen resolution to keypad formats. To minimize fragmentation, Google will also institute a set of basic applications handset makers will be required to install in their first Android products. As of now, Miner admits, the exact application makeup remains undetermined, and Google retains final cut on all decisions. Here's what we do know about Android, six months on.
November 2007: Google finally makes public the worst-kept secret in wireless, formally announcing Android, a Linux-based mobile OS. Google also touts the formation of broad industry group dubbed the Open Handset Alliance--members include HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, all of which will reportedly commercially release Android-based handsets sometime in 2008. In its official press statement, Google promises the Android platform "will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products." The first Android SDK follows a week later. At the same time Google announces the first Android Developer Challenge, which will dole out $10 million in awards for innovative mobile applications created for the platform.
December 2007: During an interview, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam pledges the operator will support the Android platform. "We're planning on using Android," McAdam says. "Android is an enabler of what we do."
January 2008: Linux systems platform and open-source mobile tech firm a la Mobile debuts what it touts as the industry's first demonstration of Android applications. a la Mobile's Android app suite runs on HTC's Qtek 9090 advanced smartphone and includes a browser, phone dialer, audio player, maps, camera, games, calendar, contacts manager, calculator, tasks manager and notes.
February 2008: Manufacturers Freescale, Marvell, NEC Electronics, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments all exhibit Android-based prototype or proof-of-concept devices at the annual Mobile World Congress industry conference in Barcelona. Speaking at the same event, T-Mobile International CEO Hamid Akhavan says the operator plans to launch an Android-based handset in the fourth quarter of this year.
February 2008: Google releases an updated version of the Android SDK dubbed m5-rc14. Highlights include a new user interface, layout animations, geo-coding and new media codecs.
March 2008: Reports surface that Windows Mobile CE portable device maker HTC is developing a handset, code-named "Dream," that runs on the Android OS. The handset is reportedly five inches long and three inches wide, with a large touchscreen and a full QWERTY keypad that slides out from underneath the screen. It is expected to hit store shelves by the end of this year.
April 2008: Opera Software announces its Opera Mini mobile web browser is now compatible with the Android platform. The port promises full site rendering, zoom, synced bookmarks and integrated Google search.
April 2008: Google announces that its Android Developer Challenge generated 1,788 entires from over 70 countries, chief among them the U.S., Germany, Japan, China, India, Canada, France and the U.K. Winners will be announced July 21.
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