Google opens up Android source code


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Android seems to be the buzz du jour. The first phone based on the Google-powered Android software launches Wednesday. And everyone has already weighed in on how the device, T-Mobile’s G1, stacks up to Apple’s iPhone.

Then came word that Motorola is readying its own Android phone, complete with easy access to online social networks such as MySpace so you can stay in touch with friends while you are on the go.


Now Google is making good on the pledge to make the Android source code freely available.

Google is opening the Android Open Source Project along with the Open Handset Alliance. The alliance is made up of some major phone manufacturers including Motorola, Samsung, LG Electronics and HTC, which built the G1.

Starting today, anyone can download, build and run the code needed to create a mobile phone. That means any manufacturer can create phones based on Android and any software developer can create features. It’s a breakthrough for developers who have had a tough time cracking a mobile phone market that has been tightly controlled by carriers and manufacturers.

So why is that potentially important? It may help lower prices and improve the functionality of so-called smart phones, making them accessible to more people, Google contends. And that would be good news for consumers.

‘All of the sudden, you will be putting the power of a mini-computer in your pocket,’ said Erick Tseng, a Google product manager.

And who knows what other devices could connect to the Internet with a bit of gearhead ingenuity. Tseng says Google has gotten inquiries from manufacturers of ATMs and refrigerators who are interested in the operating system.

But don’t expect a Google-powered fridge anytime soon. ‘We are focusing on mobile phones,’ Tseng said. ‘There are plenty of challenges to bringing innovation to that space.’


-- Jessica Guynn