Google and the Open Handset Alliance released the complete Android platform source code, which means you can actually build a phone with the software if you have the chops.
Available free under an Apache license, the Android Open Source Project will allow OEMs, phone carriers or even application programmers to download the code to create mobile devices based on the Linux-flavored Android stack.
Developers can also contribute code to the platform thanks to a set of APIs that allows Android to host applications written by third-party developers.
Wait a minute, you say-Android has been available for a while now, and some third-party programmers have already created mobile Web apps, some of which are available in Android Market. Indeed, there has even been an Android Developer Challenge contest (and winner) for the best mobile application built for Android.
These things are true. But those apps were created with Android's early SDK (software development kit). Today, Google released the entire Android stack, including the heretofore unavailable network and telephony layers, Google Android Product Manager Erick Tseng told me yesterday.
"You can literally take that entire source code, put it on a piece of hardware, and you'd have a working phone," Tseng said. "You could not have done that before with just the SDK. Whether you're a carrier, an OEM or even just an application provider, you can partner up with a hardware manufacturer and make a phone."
In open-sourcing Android, Google said consumers can expect to see more applications, such as location-based travel tools, games and social networking offerings, as well as cheaper and faster smart phones. Such efforts are already under way: Note Motorola's social networking smart phone based on Android.
Android was announced in November 2007, which means we're less than two weeks shy of singing "Happy Birthday" to it. That may seem like a long time for Google and the Open Handset Alliance to release the complete stack. It clearly is, but Tseng called it "one of the largest open-source efforts ever in the history of open source."
I asked Tseng what he would like to see now that the entire Android stack is available. He told me:
"One thing is to see the added contribution to the open source effort. As we began to expand into new geographies, we're going to be looking for all new sorts of functionality, tools and apps that will address the needs of users not just in the U.S. but in Asia and Europe."
Tseng admitted Google timed the complete open-sourcing of Android for the launch of the first Android-based smart phone, T-Mobile's G1. The carrier tomorrow, Oct. 22, is rolling out the G1 in its retail stores and shipping them to consumers who preordered them online.