BitDepth 777 - April 11

The Android OS slips past Apple's iOS in the first quarter of 2011. Here's a look at what's happening in Samsung's version of the software.
Android takeover
Appstore for Android. According to a February report from Comscore, Samsung leads the mobile market and Android, by one percent, is the leading smartphone OS. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The Android operating system has been growing steadily as a force in the mobile computing and smartphone world since Google acquired the company in 2005 and focused the development of the OS on mobile platforms.
It’s unique among mobile platforms in its licensing agreement, which is based on the ground breaking Apache license which provided the bedrock of the Internet’s development.

The Android OS is built on Linux, but applications written for the platform are largely written in Java. The OS has gone through some significant improvements since it was released in September 2008 for the T-Mobile G1.
Now it’s safe to describe the software as mainstream, with multiple phones being built specifically to leverage the capabilities of the OS and creating, along the way, a software and hardware ecosystem that’s providing the first real challenge to the iPhone and Apple’s Appstore.
As the Android matures though, it’s beginning to look more and more like Apple’s iOS ecosystem.

The appearance of the Amazon Appstore for Android, for instance, offers the same kind of centralised experience for the general public to browse software, grab deals and browse programmer’s wares that Apple built into its own appstore (available within iTunes).
The key difference between the development cycles of both of these storefronts was that until the iOS appstore, the only way to get non-Apple software onto an iPhone was through the jailbreak repositories. 

The Amazon storefront provides a more consumer focused front end for vendors without invalidating the software, some of it officially frowned on, that’s still available in the far less genteel marketplace.
The buzz is currently on that Google may be willing to push for more uniformity in Android beginning with version 3 of the OS. Officially administered by the Open Handset Alliance, which consists of every major player in the mobile phone business except for Apple, Microsoft and Nokia, the current licensing arrangements for Android allow handset makers to modify whatever they want in producing a version of the operating system for their phones and tablets.

That’s led to a situation in which the platform, despite rapid adoption and widespread acceptance by consumers, represents a fractured landscape to Android’s overseers when they’re ready to introduce changes to the code. Some devices can be updated as soon as new versions of Android appear, most have to wait on the authors of each handset’s version to push updates out.
This isn’t particularly complicated, as I’ve experienced. While testing Samsung’s Galaxy S, I got two notifications from the OS that updates were available and both installed without incident or a need to restart the device.

And for most consumers, a phone isn’t a computer, despite the formidable bells and whistles available on most smartphones and there usually isn’t any pressing need to have the latest and greatest version of the OS on a device that’s expected, first and foremost, to send and receive phone calls.
But with Android’s push into tablets, which are considered to be computing devices, that’s likely to become more of an issue and when it messes with people’s games, expect real problems to arise.

That lack of a “consistent experience” is why Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney claims that his company hasn’t developed a title using the Unreal engine for Android yet (that’s
here, second paragraph from the end).
The Android OS now commands 26 percent of the US smartphone market, but the very freedom that’s driven such spectacular success on the Android platform may well be tying its shoelaces before the next step forward.
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