Where will Android shine?
There has been some debate about which platform represents the sweet spot for Android?
Is it best suited as a smart-phone?
Can Android dominate the netbook market?
Maybe it can excel in the mid-market as a flexible and capable touch-tablet?
Or perhaps Android will make its lasting mark in a different arena altogether such as playing the role of the embedded brains for household appliances or for industrial controllers? This is of interest to me, personally. Though I have to question that notion about once a day when I pop the battery in my Nexus One due to phone call lockups. Yikes.
Gaining momentum and mind-share
To date Android has been making progress as a smart-phone operating system and perhaps to a larger degree as the anti-iPhone.
Unfortunately for Android fans there has been some disappointment in the options for solid hardware running the latest-and-greatest Android code.
The first round of Android devices included the not-so-bad G1/Dream platform.
Then the Hero from Sprint flew into town but continues to tease users with a pending 2.1 upgrade — perhaps this week?
Motorola made some journeyman-like efforts with the Cliq, Blur and Backflip devices. It is good to get Android into the hands of the masses, but buying an Android 1.5 device just didn’t get my attention.
While the G1 gets high-marks for being readily hacked and modified, the serious Android-equipped smartphones really started shipping this year with the launch of the Droid from Motorola, the Nexus One from Google & HTC and now the latest device from HTC, the Incredible.
Cool — we’re making some progress now by winning the hearts and minds of consumers. It’s an important lesson to be learned by watching the folks at Apple race ahead by focusing on user experience and accessibility.
While we want Android to continue to gain market-share (for lots of reasons), it is good to have a nice hacking platform for those not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and risking the “bricking” of their phone.
The G1 was nice, but what about running Android on an … iPhone?
Yes, it’s true
After a period of time spanning nearly two years including a couple of starts and stops, a team of open source developers has brought Android to the iPhone platform.
That’s right, Android is now running on select iPhone and iPod hardware.
The specific functionality of Android on iPhone is moving forward every few days as shared by the lead developer, known simply as planetbeing, on his blog.
Spending a little time on his blog, we can get a glimpse into this project — one that spans back to the summer of 2008 when the first work began on the “Linux on iPhone” project.
Clearly porting an OS to a piece of hardware with limited documentation and from a manufacturer known for its obsessively secretive nature is a non-trivial effort, laden with pitfalls.
For example, at one point during the ongoing development, the LCD driver just wasn’t working properly. In order to sort out what was wrong, planetbeing resorted to performing a binary comparison of his code and properly working display code. After reviewing the differences between the two, he realized that he was not properly initializing the “gamma tables”. Right, simple mistake anyone would make.
Surely the folks at Apple cannot be thrilled with these reverse-engineering efforts, though they had to know someone would attempt the feat. I wonder if they have got the lawyers warmed-up yet?
After all, the only thing more closely guarded than Apple intellectual property is the formula for Coke. I once heard that Coke outsourced the safe-keeping of the Coke Classic formula to Steve Jobs back when he was working on the Lisa. Kidding, of course, but you get the picture.
Long before placing a call on an Android-equipped iPhone, multiple subsystems had to be systematically tackled as planetbeing describes on his blog. Currently the project is at an incomplete “prototype” status at best, though steady progress is being made. The development team has made a wish list of items that need to be accomplished. If you are compiler-inclined and interested in pushing this project forward you can have a look for yourself at the updated To-Do list.
Personally I find this project very interesting to follow but have quite a long list of projects to tackle already, so I am choosing to just keep an eye on their progress for now. To that end, here are some resources that may be of interest to you:
Where does the iPad fit in?
Apple has sold over 1 million iPads in less than a month — so clearly there is demand for a “tablet” device.
These numbers are very impressive for a device that to most looks like an over-sized iPod.
Android tablets have been rumored to be in the works for some time and “coming soon”. So is bigfoot. Eventually an Android table will appear and hopefully it is more than just an expensive eBook reader.
So, let’s suppose that an Android tablet shows up but is lacking. Could an iPad be a viable option?
Odds are good that the iPad is as good or better than any Android tablet now soon to be released.
One of the big obstacles for bringing Android to the latest Apple devices, including the iPad, has been the interface to the latest multi-touch screen controller used by Apple, the Zephyr2. Fortunately for those of us interested in seeing Android run on the iPad — even if just for amusement — this obstacle looks like it is largely in the rear view mirror according to a recent update by planetbeing. Perhaps Android on an iPad could be a reality before too long.
Would you buy an iPad to get the hardware and replace iPhone OS with Android?
Have you purchased an iPad and just don’t like it? Want Flash on your iPad?
Consider supporting planetbeing and company and perhaps they can get Android running on the million-units-per-month device from Apple. That would not be rotten.
is an entrepreneur, writer and mobile software developer who probably should have been a hardware designer, but soldering got in the way. Frank's technical interests are in mobile and embedded computing. Frank is the lead author of Unlocking Android 2e
, an intermediate text on software development for the Android platform. Use coupon code linuxmag for a 30% discount.