Speaking for the Open Handset Alliance, of which Google is the most prominent benefactor/promoter, Morrill highlighted his talk — “Android: Connecting Your Life to the Web” — at the ETech conference in San Diego this afternoon with an Android emulator running from his laptop.
Using a mock-up app called Google Grapes, Morrill fetched the prices and ratings of several wines from a Google Doc spreadsheet. (Perfect for consulting while you’re at the store, shopping for a good vintage.) More impressively, he typed a new wine listing into the web-based spreadsheet, and almost instantaneously, the entry popped up onto the Android display. So along with being a phone, he explained, this is kind of functionality Android will provide: web-like applications that fit in your hand, optimized to a mobile platform. “We want people to think of the web as someone that’s always them,” he said.
Set to go on sale in the second half of this year, Morrill was on hand at ETech to explain how Android will work at the platform level: an open development model, free and open to carriers, manufacturers and enthusiasts, with no permission required to develop apps. As far as what applications will be available when the phone goes on sale in stores, he was mum on specifics. But after the talk, he told me: “You’re gonna see everything you’d see on a mobile device.” He pointed me to the Android Developer Challenge, for which Google is providing $10 million in grants as seed money for developers working on promising applications.
Some audience Q&A:
What if carriers create locked-down versions of Android?
Morrill argued that there’s no incentive to make incompatible models. In any case, they plan to make as high quality a device as possible, which should eliminate incentive to create alternate versions, especially locked-down ones. Once the handset is available, he added, the Alliance will shift to being more like an open-source team setting a development road map.
Will Android be imported to the iPhone?
“We’re not paying any attention to existing devices,” Morrill answered, suggesting that’s it’s up to someone else to do that.
How does Google make money off Android?
Right now that’s not really a high priority, said Morrill. Instead, Android is strictly about getting an open platform out there.
What’s the maturity level of the SDK?
Very early load. “We’re not even calling it Alpha or Beta,” he said. They believe it’s more important to get developers working on it now.
How will they make sure applications don’t clash with each other?
From an architecture perspective, at the bottom of Android is a Linux kernel. Every application is installed onto a different user ID. Upshot: Two applications won’t have any permission to interact with each other (unless they’re specifically developed to do so).
Doesn’t the open platform model increase security risk with danger of malware, phishing programs, etc?
Morrill acknowledged that users will be exposed to a web-like risk level, more risk than they’re currently used to on the phone. However, he pointed to Android’s permissions infrastructure — every application will only access resources with the user’s specific permission.