updated 01:35 pm EST, Mon November 12, 2007
Google Android SDK
Google today released its promised software development kit for Android, the company's new Linux-based operating system for cellphones and handheld devices. The utility allows developers to freely write programs that take advantage of all the hardware features of a given device or replace the most basic features; the dialing system and the front end can be replaced if a programmer likes, Google says. The search engine giant also stresses that all its most popular services are built-in and usable with third-party apps without requiring privileged access.
The default Android shell supports several more advanced hardware features by default, including Internet access over 3G networks, playback of AAC/MP3 songs and H.264/MPEG-4 video, and hardware 3D acceleration for games and 3D utilities such as a street view in Google Maps. A touchscreen control system is provided from Synaptics.
Conspicuously, the introduction also reveals influences from Apple in both the interface and in software. By default, the web browser is based on the WebKit rendering engine used by the iPhone and shares the same emphasis on rendering sites as they would appear on a computer. Devices with a touchscreen can similarly control pages by dragging and tapping, though Google does not say whether multi-touch devices are supported. Other touches include a Mac OS X-like dock interface for phones with keypad-only controls, a Cover Flow-like web browsing history view, and iPhone-style notification bubbles.
With the greater unveiling of the device, Google has also created prototypes of both conventional smartphones with QWERTY keyboards and a large, touchscreen-focused system with side buttons for some features. Neither is expected to become a shipping product for Google, which has not ruled out its own phone but for now is paying attention solely to upcoming phones from HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung that are expected in the second half of 2008.