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Google spills Satan Phone dev kit

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As it tells the world that unnamed developers will fill the gaping holes in its inaugural Android phone, Google has released version 1.0 of the Android SDK.

Applications developed using this version of the kit, Google says, will be compatible with mobile devices running version 1.0 of Android platform. This includes the T-Mobile G1, due October 22.

That said, Google Oompah Loompahs will continue tweaking the kit. "The SDK won't remain static - we'll keep improving the tools by adding features and fixing bugs," says Android 'developer advocate' Dan Morrill. "But now developers can rely on the APIs in the SDK and can update their applications to run on Android 1.0-compatible devices."

But Google has yet to release the actual platform code. Its open mobile platform is still closed - though it says the source code will be set free as the first Googlephone goes on sale.

The company didn't respond to questions about the particulars, but it has long said the source code will be opened under a non-reciprocal Apache license - meaning anyone can borrow and tweak it without giving back to the community. Dan Morrill nemesis David "Lefty" Schlesinger - an open source guru with Access, the Japan-based mobile software outfit - has little doubt that countless developers will raid the code for their own selfish reasons. But he wonders how many will help shape the platform as a whole.

"There will be a certain amount of poking through things on the part of the mainstream open source world - say, people who want a Java machine but don't want to pay Sun will use Dalvik [Android's Java virtual machine]," Lefty tells The Reg. "But do I see a large platform community - as opposed to an application developer community - spring up around Android anytime soon? No. Not really.

"I see the same problem with Symbian when they go open source. There's just too much code for anyone to be able to digest in a reasonable amount of time...Plus, people are going to ask themselves 'Why would I volunteer my efforts to Google anyway?'"

He also wonders how many app developers will actually build tools that run atop the platform. "It depends on how fast they actually move the phones," he says. "At this point, the [Android developer] mailing list is obviously just a bunch of students and the like. When it comes to real professional developers, we'll have to wait and see."

At yesterday's G1 press conference in New York, when Google was asked why the phone lacked Exchange support and so many other standard tools, it kept saying that such missing pieces could always be added by third-party developers.

This comes after Google spent months playing hide and seek with earlier versions of the Android SDK. Between early March and late August, the kit was unavailable to all but a handful of developers. But if the phone sells, all will be forgotten.

The question is whether the phone will sell. ®

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