So, Google has released the code to their mobile operating system, Android. Now I know this has confused some people who already thought that the code was open, but it wasn’t until yesterday. Although several revisions of the Android SDK have been released over the past year, the actual guts of the code had remained closed, until now. It was released to coincide with T-Mobiles release of its G1 mobile phone, the first Android powered device.
As many people did, I rushed off to download the source from the git repository at kernel.org. Its been about 24 hours now since I started looking at it.
So is this the ‘next big thing’? Will Google dominate the mobile space with Android? Will this change the world? Well, yes and no.
First off, the code itself. A quick peruse around shows that its in pretty good shape, modifications to the standard Linux kernel, Python, Java, the usual suspects. Its well documented and nice to read as you would expect from the talented engineers at Google. Speaking of documentation, the contributor documentation sets out Googles intentions for the platform. This is where the interesting idea’s start to spring from. Not what Android has to offer today, but what it will be like in the future.
Yes, technically Android is strong. It’s backed by one of the most powerful companies in the world and one would expect it will do well. But where the platform shines is in none of that, its the fact that the platform is open.
Within 4 1/2 hours of the source code being released, the Google Android team accepted their first patch from the community. Within 24 hours that number was up past 10. That’s the beauty of open source. Even with Google’s engineering man power, they will still over look bugs, they will still break things. In a closed source company this is always a problem. In an open source one, the famous old Linus quote applies, “Many eyes make all bugs shallow”.
Android will succeed, but it will be more to do with its open nature than anything else. To paraphrase a famous companies slogan, “The futures bright, the futures