Android Developers See Opportunity, Hacks

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-02-19 Print this article Print

Developers of applications for Google's Android phone are gearing up for increased customer demand for applications, even as some continue to create apps for the competing Apple iPhone. Meanwhile, developers also discuss hacks to enable greater access to Android phones.

NEW YORK -- Developers of applications for Google's Android phone are gearing up for increased customer demand for applications, even as some continue to create apps for the competing Apple iPhone.

At a meeting of the New York Linux Users Group (NYLUG) here, Nathan Freitas, a partner with Oliver Coady, a New York-based consulting and application development firm specializing in mobile development, said he expects the advent of paid-for applications for the Google Android to boost both quality and quantity of Android applications.

"I think that 'for-pay' applications will certainly help to increase Android development," Freitas said. "Right now I'm throwing in Android ports for applications I write for the iPhone, because I do iPhone development, too," Freitas told a crowded room of current and prospective Android developers at the Feb. 18 NYLUG meeting. "I think the market is becoming more forward-looking and there is a good amount of interest in Android apps. The iPhone is wildly successful, but Android is catching on."

Indeed, Brian Gupta, a developer with the system administration support firm, Brandorr, said that within 12 months or so, "I think Android is going to be wildly successful" and will cut into Windows Mobile's market share and will provide realistic competition for the iPhone. Gupta said he expects that the prospective adoption of Android by Sprint also will boost the platform.

Meanwhile, Freitas, who has worked at Palm as a program manager building Java code, said he appreciates Android as "the first open mobile platform. There's really a lot to hack on. It's really the first open platform developer-tools-wise. No one's ever put the effort into delivering a fully cross-platform development environment."

Moreover, Android features a "great SDK [Software Development Kit]" in Android 1.1 SDK Release 1, with or without the Eclipse IDE support, he said. Freitas said he likes having the ability to either hack code by hand or to use the Eclipse IDE, particularly for debugging code written in different languages. Freitas then discussed various favored features, including the Android Emulator, which is a virtual mobile device that runs on a developer's PC.

Making a comparison to the iPhone development environment, Freitas said, "There's a big difference between APIs and a thoughtful platform...The iPhone is a beautiful device and a great user experience."

However, the iPhone world does not focus as much on providing an ecosystem of services for developers like Android does, Freitas said, noting the site, which is a place to collect, design and implement open intents and interfaces to make Android mobile applications work more closely together. In addition, Freitas mentioned the PhoneGap project, which is a development tool that allows Web developers to take advantage of the core features in the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry SDK using JavaScript.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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