Google unveils Android platform roadmap, accepts patches

Logo GoogleGoogle has published a short-term roadmap for Android that provides some insight into the company's plans for upcoming feature enhancements.

Support for localization in the user interface and application framework are one of the major goals. Google aims to complete a German translation by the end of the year and will add French, Italian, and several other languages early next year. This will make it possible for carriers to bring Android-based devices to market in other countries.

Another improvement that Google aims to deliver by the end of the year is support for the SIM Application Toolkit, a GSM standard that allows carrier-specific behaviors and functionality to be programmed into SIM cards.

A common complaint voiced by G1 owners is that the phone lacks an onscreen touch keyboard. Users have to flip the phone and slide out the screen so that they can use the hardware keyboard every time they input text. Google hopes to remedy this issue during the first quarter of 2009 by providing an extensible Input Method Framework (IMF). The IMF will make it possible to build software keyboards with text autocompletion systems. Google will supply several reference implementations and will also allow third-party developers to create custom input methods that can be distributed through the Android Market.

Prior to the official Android release, there was virtually no communication from Google about the development schedule or planned features. The availability of a feature roadmap at this stage is a very promising sign that Google is serious about making Android development more transparent and inclusive. Google says that the roadmap is being formulated with input from the user and developer community as well as project leaders and the corporate members of the Open Handset Alliance. Community members are encouraged to participate by discussing the roadmap and sharing suggestions on the platform mailing list.

Another promising sign is Google's early adoption of patches submitted by third-party developers. On the official Google open source blog, Android developer Jeff Bailey revealed that Google started accepting third-party code contributions from community members within hours after the Android source was released. It remains unclear whether users will eventually be able to install their own modified Android firmware images onto regular G1 devices, but Google has certainly opened up development of the platform and is allowing third-party developers to participate.

Although Google has lifted the curtains on the platform roadmap, questions still remain about the timeline for upcoming devices. Reports previously indicated that Sprint would be the next major carrier to bring an Android-based device to the market, but emerging evidence indicates that Sprint is dissatisfied with the Android platform and plans to delay its launch. In a presentation to the National Press Club last week, Sprint executive Dan Hesse told reporters that Android isn't yet "good enough to put the Sprint brand on it."

Early reviews are mixed and some critics don't view Android as a viable competitor to Apple's iPhone just yet. Much of the value that Android is poised to deliver is in the potential for a rich third-party application ecosystem. That value hasn't been unlocked yet because the nascent application development community is just starting to gain some momentum. Android could look a lot more appealing to Sprint when there are more programs available for the platform and when Google addresses some of the early problems and usability issues identified by reviewers and consumers.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Android, Google

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