Android SDK doesn't address issues faced by developers

Google released a minor Android update with SDK 2.0.1., but it needs to provide more tools to bolster Android success.

Google has released a new version of the Android SDK. Version 2.0.1 is a minor update to the Android platform, not a significant release, and it doesn't address the most serious issues faced by Android developers.

The Android Developers blog site describes the update "Android 2.0.1 is a minor update to Android 2.0. This update includes several bug fixes and behavior changes, such as application resource selection based on API level and changes to the value of some Bluetooth-related constants."

The changes introduced to the platform itself, especially a fix for the camera functionality in the Verizon Droid, are welcomed. Google has also added some tools to help developers, but Android faces challenges stemming both from its relative youth in the app store arena and the diverse software and hardware combinations that developers have to consider.

When Google introduced the Android 'Donut' SDK (version 1.6) it was heralded as a game changer because of the changes that Google implemented with the Android Market. Improved app browsing and the ability to include screenshots to help promote applications were cheered by developers.

A recent survey, however, suggests that Android developers are disgruntled and that Google still has a way to go with Android Market. Google needs developers to pump out compelling apps that extend the features and functionality of the Android platform, but many developers right now are dissatisfied with the volume of downloads and overall revenue generated by Android Market.

Google needs to address those issues and continue to grow a robust and satisfied developer community if it has any chance of meeting analyst predictions that the number of apps in Android Market will quintuple in 2010. App store bragging rights aside, Google needs developers to create a diverse array of applications to provide users with the tools they want and drive sales of Android-based devices.

One thing that Apple has done, which Google and other app store challengers need to do as well, is to make app development so easy that anyone with a little programming knowledge can crank out an app. The reason there is an 'app for that' for anything you can think of is that virtually every company has developed a custom app of some sort to connect with customers and get some marketing mileage at the same time on the iPhone platform.

Another advantage that Apple has with the iPhone, though, is platform consistency. While there are a few different models of iPhone and iPod Touch available, the hardware itself and the version of the iPhone operating system in use are consistent across the board.

Many people take issue with how controlling Apple is of all aspects of its devices. Apple closely maintains the hardware, and the software, and third-party developers have to jump through hoops to get apps approved for the iPhone. The bottom line, though, is that Apple's proprietary, closed platform is part of Apple's recipe for success.

Developers for Android are faced with a different versions of the Android SDK in circulation, and an array of devices with different features and functions. The fragmentation of the Android platform complicates the development process and poses unique challenges for Android developers that iPhone developers don't have to contend with.

As Google continues to adapt the Android platform and SDK's, it is going to have to address the issues developers have with the Android Market. More importantly, Google must provide Android developers with the tools they need to simplify app development and ensure that apps will work across the various Android software versions and diverse hardware.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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