Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Google Releases Android SDK to the World

Google’s announcement last week about Android, and the future of their rumoured ‘gPhone’ project was interesting, but didn’t really mean anything until yesterday, when the SDK was released. Now, I’ve had barely a chance to really read the SDK documentation and play with the SDK, but overall, I really like what I see. Especially since the Mono guys are looking at setting up Mono to be able to output Dalvik bytecode.

The language of choice, at least for now, is Java, and the Android system doesn’t provide access to the underlying Linux system yet, though that is likely to change if Google follows through on opening the source. As much as I tend to dislike Java as a language, it’s a reasonable choice, since Java has been the language of choice for most mobile devices for quite a while. Due to this Java-dependency, the only IDE integration currently provided is with Eclipse. I’m not a big fan of Eclipse, personally, but that’s largely because I haven’t done Java development in a while, and Eclipse isn’t overly useful outside of Java. I’m going to be using it more, as I learn Android a bit.

If this succeeds in unifying the Mobile market onto a steady platform (not identical, but steady), this will be the most revolutionary advance in mobile technology since the invention of the cell phone. Still, not everyone is excited about the Open Handset Alliance. This disappoints me quite a bit, because I’ve been planning to buy a Palm Treo in December.

I’ve always been a fan of Palm. Their PDAs have always worked well for me, and always integrated well with Linux. They’ve always made developer’s tools freely available. Of course, developing for Palm OS was never the easiest thing to do, as the OS is a fairly thin layer over the hardware. While this has some benefits, as the hardware has gotten better, the option of running code in a VM where it’s not likely to crash or hang the entire device, is really attractive.

Palm has even acknowleged this, and has been talking for years about making a Linux-based PalmOS available. Here was an opportunity to get the technology without doing that much work. And they turned it away. Their chief complaint, about being able to control the Software-Hardware relationship is bullshit on two levels. First, they offer Windows Mobile based smartphones. Second, with Android, they have the ability to tweak it to their hardware, hopefuly keeping it still compatible with the basic Android distribution.

Instead, it’s business as usual for Palm. Some people have already begun the funeral march, and while I think it’s too early for that, I’m seriously reconsidering my choice of Smartphones here in a month or so. Sure, nothing actually runs Android yet, and might not for a year, but if I get a different phone, I would like to have an upgrade path available, something Palm definitely won’t offer.

Yes, Android isn’t the only Linux-based Mobile Platform out there. Trolltech had their Greenphone, which isn’t available anymore. OpenMoko and the Neo1973 are cool, but apparently not ready for prime-time. I’ve already mentioned Palm’s vaporware offering. Android looks like a potentially great hackable platform, and I’m hopeful that it’s going to be worth it. Too bad I can’t buy anything that uses it until late next year.

My question to you, then. Is there a Smartphone which integrates well with Linux and Gnome, that should be able to run Android some day?</p