Live Blog: Android and the Open Handset Alliance


Today at 3pm (London/GMT) Dave Burke, an engineering manager within Google’s mobile team, will stand up at the Future of Mobile conference in London and talk about Android and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), the new open platform initiative from Google. This is the the first conference presentation in Europe on the subject since Google’s announcement on November 5th. Check back here then for the live blog coverage…


[Update I: Please note I missed some stuff here – I don’t speak code and he was talking really fast – Ed]

[Update II: Here’s some video I shot of the Android interface being demo’d]

[We’re off ]
What is the OHA.

30+ industry leaders joined the OHA to get involved. Android is an open source phone platform. There is no single Google phone but phones built by partners.

We tried to put together a proper market strategy.

It’s the first fully open platform in the world for the mobile

Linux kernel at the base.

It’s a complete product, everything for hardware specs etc

Why does it exist?

2.7bn mobile users in the world today

1.5bn TVs for instance, by contrast

For most people their first Internet experience will be on a mobile device

We want to promote openness in the industry

create larger developer community
provide great experience

Tech goals
– enable a great phone experience
– Open architecture

One application can’t interfere with another application
Allows the platform to be more robust

Integrated Google applcations written with public APIs
2-way sync for user data

Powerful framework written in Java
Rich graphics
Advanced standards web browser – Web kit

Architectural decisions:
Home, Contacts, Gmail MMS
Android is designed in a component or modular fashion. Say you have a photo and want to send it via email. The system looks for the best component to take a photo, but the User can also install a web component such as Flickr. Or a Gmaal app expresses an ‘intent’ for that capability.

On top of Linux Kernel is Libraries, such as text and graphics, SSL, SQLite, etc.

Next there is Java virtual machine

On top is a set of application libraries and then content and application libraries

Systems services, then Applications finally.

All applications can be swapped out and customised.

Possible to support a JVM and support older apps.

Current status:

Still developming the platform. SDK is 2 days old. Have a set of OEMs building actual phone’s and 2nd half of next year phones expected when full open source platform will be released.

[He then did an SDK Demo]

I can do an application in 8 mins

We have this thing where we give developers 2 monitors. So if I have a big screen I can be fast! [This is being done in an iMax cinema theatre]

So I want to create an App.

I select Android Project . Called it “Browser” for example.

The plugin creates a skeleton application.

I go to resources

I can create programmatically or declaratively

I choose and edit address box, specify size.

Assign an ID to access from the code (address)

Embed the webkit Bowser, so I use a element within linear layout.

So I have defined a simple UI.

So I go to Java code

Fundamentally you can have an activity in a separate process.

[various other operations]

I need to respond to the return key so I create a listener and create new class to handle those events. I resolve the import on view.

Now I load the URL on the Web view with the text on the user and convert that to a string

Then I can emulate the application to check if it works.

So now I have a web browser

So now I want a contacts application

It’s simple class which has a method class called Get which returns the contact string

Now I need to enable Javascript

Add Javascript interface, give it a name, call it Contacts. So the javascipt, if it references contacts it will work through the contacts class.

All doen in 7 mins 58 seconds!


We’re really serious. We want to see serious innovation. We want operators and app developers to spend less time on little silos and more time building great stuff.

$10m prizes. We’re looking for great application, LBS, social networking you name it. And if you want a steady income we are hiring in Europe!


We’re working with operators too

Q: Will it support Flash Light?
Not heard anything. Webkit support Netscape style plugins

Q: Full surce code until handsets come, why?
There’s a lot of IP in the platform. They don’t want to leak it before the project is a success. There will be bugs so we don’t want to open it until it really works on handsets.

Google wants to see a good experience. Device manufacturers can do what they want. Device manufacturers will just spend time tweaking their phones to emphasise one thing over another.

The difference with Moko is this is real. We have a lot of momentum with key partners. We are not talking about specifications, we’re just building it and trying to get support.

Q: What about License? Google owning IP of SDK?
I’m not a lawyer but if you don’t patent it there may be downstream issues.

Q: Given Linux Kernel? Why can’t we write C++ applications on top of it?
It’s harder than Java – which is simple by comparison.

Q: Will you install all Google apps by default? Isn’t this a Microsoft route?
A: A device maker can install what they want. Default applications are in the source code. It’s open source so you can swap out applications.



It turns out Dave didn’t let slip any new information that’s not already online. It’s clear though that, because he is based in London, this office will be a very key player in developing the platform. It’s also clear that, once you get going, the Android is going to be a pretty easy platform to create applications for. Eight minutes from start to finish is pretty damn fast….