Android Opens Up The Operating System For Innovation
A revolution has taken place in the open mobile operating-system (OS) arena since the launch of Google’s Android almost three years ago. The sheer market power of Google, the attractiveness of the platform’s open environment for developers, an expanding number of connected consumer electronics, and an estimated 40 Android-based handsets planned for shipping in 2010 have created significant momentum for the technology.
According to CNN, Android-based smart phones surpassed Apple iPhone shipments in the U.S. for the first quarter of 2010, clearly showing how Android is open for innovation. If the mobile industry buzz is to be believed, the increasing prominence of Android may be instrumental in triggering the merger of Nokia S60 and Symbian and the subsequent creation of a whole new roadmap for the mobile platform industry.
Over the past few years, quite a few Linux-based open mobile OS platforms have emerged: Bada from Samsung, LiMO from the LiMO Foundation, Moblin from Intel, Maemo from Nokia, MeeGO from Intel & Nokia (MeeGO = Moblin + Maemo), Android from Google, and ALP from Access. But Android’s well crafted software stack with software development kits (SDKs) and Novell developer kits (NDKs), ease of programming, Google’s support, large user community, and periodic releases have made it a global, open OS for the wireless future.
Android has even successfully transcended beyond the mobile terminals space and is generating an increasing interest in the consumer electronics, automotive, home entertainment, video surveillance, and industrial equipment/control domains. Although Android is the quintessential fit for ARM processor technologies, commercial ports of Android are available on PowerPC, SH4 (Renesas), MIPS, and x86 platforms today. This portability makes it the most widely available mobile OS among all the other Linux-based open platforms.
Android offers the unique advantage of having a complete set of software for the device—an operating system, middleware, and key mobile applications—all bundled in a single package. Unlike the closed mobile phone OSs, such as iPhone OS 3.0, RIM, or Windows Mobile, Android is completely open, although both of its flavors have their share of challenges while offering distinct levels of user experience.
Android’s Winning Edge
Android is maintaining its winning edge over other competitive Linux-based open mobile OSs. According to Gartner, 6.8 million Android handsets were sold in 2009, which is a 3.9% share of global smart-phone sales. That’s up from 0.5% in 2008, and it continues to grow.
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