If you're more interested in the potential of hacking Android itself
around, rather than simply playing with a pre-made handset running a stock version of Google's mobile platform, then I've got some good news: yesterday, the project official went open source.
According to a post on the official Android Open Source Project blog
, the teams at Google and the Open Handset Alliance have finally released all the code for the mobile platform just ahead of the official retail availability of the first commercial product to use the system, the T-Mobile G1. Describing the project as “a complete, end-to-end software platform that can be adapted to work on any number of hardware configurations
”, Android's Dave Bort is hoping that the little platform that could will get a wider acceptance outside the smartphone market.
With the Android system taking the form of a customisable, mobile-oriented embedded Linux platform there's certainly a wide scope for applications. While the bulk of the development so far has been on making a workable smartphone, there's certainly nothing to stop hackers taking the platform in entirely new directions – and Google is, of course, hoping to profit from such innovation, asking anyone with “a great idea for a new feature
” to add it to the Android source.
The bad news for fans of the popular GPL open source licence is that the Android project has opted to use the rather more commercially friendly Apache 2.0 licence. Although parts of the code are GPLv2 compliant – such as core Linux code taken in from other sources – any development work the teams have performed themselves is Apache 2.0 licensed. As a further legal CYA, Google is asking contributors to sign a legal contract
granting the company irrevocable and world-wide rights to distribute and commercially exploit changes made to the Android source.
If you do
fancy a hack around with Android, you'll need a Linux or MacOS X system – the source can't be compiled on a Windows box at the moment, although should the system take off this is likely to change. That said, if you're developing a Linux-based platform it's probably a good idea to be doing said development on another Linux-based platform.
With the entire source tree made available for hackers to play with, I predict we will be seeing a lot more Android-based devices on the market in the very near future – and not just mobile 'phones. Could the first Android-based netbook be just around the corner? Share your thoughts over in the forums