Google's Android Gets Closer

A curious day of news from Web giant Google [NASDAQ:GOOG], whose rumored GPhone arrived for approval at the FCC. But even more interesting is fresh dirt on the Android operating system that should make the GPhone a contender in the smartphone market. If you don't know much about Android, it's an elegant open-source platform for mobile phones that is poised to shake up the RIM Blackberry [NASDAQ:RIMM] and Apple iPhone [NASDAQ:AAPL] monopolies on ease-of-use and cachet. The supposed GPhone — which is actually an HTC Dream, perhaps rebranded — will rely on software written primarily by non-Google developers, and the developers kit will be available to anyone. So what's the software news?

Today, Google released a new version of the developer's kit (also known as the SDK) called version 0.9, a number most software eggheads would say indicates that the kit is almost out of beta. The kit shows numerous revisions of the OS, including the addition of more widgets, tabbed browsing of applications, on-screen finger flick compatibility, and sundry other improvements. The kit also identifies the presence of a media player and camera app, but no big surprise there. With its version number beautifully close to 1.0, Android could be ready for commercial release as soon as this fall.

Feel like returning your iPhone 3G? You might want to wait and see how many developers make use of the SDK; some experts have suggested that smartphone market saturation will cause Android software development to catch on slowly. And without a centralized application marketplace like the iPhone's app store, applications might also be hard to advertise and monetize, further delaying a decent selection of Android apps. Whether or not app development for the GPhone takes off or not, rest assured the Android OS will eventually build up steam and become a major player.

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