Android has problems. That's the word from developers, according to an article in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. The article indicates that the early version of the software development kit is full of more bugs than one would expect.
"Functionality is not there, is poorly documented, or just doesn't work," the Journal quoted Seattle software engineer Adam MacBeth as saying. "It's clearly not ready for prime time." The Journal article added that "a sizeable number" of developers say Google has been "unresponsive."
But the Journal also quoted another software engineer, Rick Genter, who told the newspaper that Android is no buggier than any other software tool at this stage. And, earlier this week, Gizmodo quoted an unnamed programmer as saying an Android prototype device was "light and fast" and "a lot more put together than Windows Mobile 5."
Prize Money Hindering Android?
The developer's tool kit was released last month by Google, which has spearheaded the creation and release of Android as an open-source platform for mobile devices.
Android complements Google's drive for opening up wireless networks to all kinds of devices. Google was partially successful in lobbying for such requirements for spectrum being auctioned next month by the Federal Communications Commission. Google is bidding on those frequencies, as are 265 other companies, and Android could be a key part of the company's strategy.
It is important enough that Google is offering $10 million in prize money to stimulate the development of new Android applications.
Ironically, some observers are indicating that the prize money could be stifling development, as well as promoting it. Open-source platforms move forward by the sharing of information, but developers eager for the cash might be hoarding information to prevent its use by competitors.
Time for Working Out Problems
Chris Hazelton, an analyst with industry research firm IDC, said that any sharing of information that is held back at this point is compensated by the prize money's push toward application development.
Developers are being asked to "design an application when they don't even know what the interface is," he said, and, without the prize money as incentive, the open-source community might be emphasizing nonapplication knowledge sharing until the devices emerge.
Those devices are expected "sometime in the second half of 2008," he said, so there is time for Android's technical problems to be worked out. HTC is the only company that has committed to delivering an Android-based device next year, he pointed out, although LG, Samsung, and Motorola have committed to releasing Android-based products at some point.
Hazelton said that, in addition to the quality of the software development kit, another factor developers need to realize is that the different device vendors might release "different flavors" of the platform and, at present, "there is no guarantee" that a third-party application will work on all of them.