In this chapter, you will learn how Android came about. We’ll take a look at its history to help us understand its future. As this mobile environment enters a make-or-break year, we look at the key players in this ecosystem, what motivates them, and what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the table.
By the end of this chapter, you will better understand the ecosystem from a business point of view, which should help clarify the technology choices and how they relate to long-term advantages for various platforms.
Android is a comprehensive open source platform designed for mobile devices. It is championed by Google and owned by Open Handset Alliance. The goal of the alliance is to “accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience.” Android is the vehicle to do so.
As such, Android is revolutionizing the mobile space. For the first time, it is a truly open platform that separates the hardware from the software that runs on it. This allows for a much larger number of devices to run the same applications and creates a much richer ecosystem for developers and consumers.
For developers, Android provides all the tools and frameworks for developing mobile apps quickly and easily. The Android SDK is all you need to start developing for Android; you don’t even need a physical phone.
More so, Android is licensed under business-friendly licenses (Apache/MIT) so that others can freely extend it and use it for variety of purposes. Even some third-party open source libraries that were brought into the Android stack were rewritten under new license terms.
So, as a developer, you have access to the entire platform source code. This allows you to see how the guts of the Android operating system work. As manufacturer, you can easily port Android OS to your specific hardware. You can also add your own proprietary secret sauce, and you do not have to push it back to the development community if you don’t want to.
There’s no need to license Android. You can start using it and modifying it today, and there are no strings attached. More so, Android has many hooks at various levels of the platform, allowing anyone to extend it in unforeseen ways.
Android is a purpose-built platform for mobile devices. When designing Android, the team looked at which mobile device constraints likely were not going to change for the foreseeable future. For one, mobile devices are battery powered, and battery performance likely is not going to get much better any time soon. Second, the small size of mobile devices means that they will always be limited in terms of memory and speed.