Android apps: Free downloads for the people

Google's Android operating system is a remarkable concept in itself: an open-source OS for portable devices built on Linux. The benefit? Developers don't have to pay for the software development kit, for one. (Currently, the price is $99 for the iPhone SDK.) This offers the consumer the potential to have some truly excellent apps from creative developers on college campuses everywhere.

Now, there are many free applications out there already, like Gmote. Gmote is a cool app that turns your phone into a remote control for your computer. Is this useful? You tell me. But it sure is nifty.

Another application that caught my eye is Orienteer, written by a group called Deafcode, LLC. Apparently, they are a consortium of hearing-impared developers. Neat! Their application turns your phone into a compass. Double Neat!

There are pay apps, too. And being the curmudgeon that I am, I want to know if this is kosher. Somehow, in the back of my mind, I think that these apps should also be open source, or at the very least, free to use. Being a developer myself, I'm very aware of the need to make an income. But there's also a part of me that remembers why I enjoy doing it: to create new and (hopefully) interesting code. A kind of knowledge for knowledge's sake thing.

Having an open-source SDK is a great way to lure talent (see my opening remarks). Perhaps it is because I am not one of these genius developers that I ponder the chivalry of it all.

Mark my words: This point won't be lost on the open source community. Android may now be a minor presence in the handset world. But this is changing. Samsung announced plans to launch three of their new phones with Android in 2009. T-Mobile is even putting Android on non-mobile gadgets, such as a tablet computer.

I'd like to think that this is a good trend we're seeing. I'd like to have different OS options available for my BlackBerry. I doubt we'll ever see Android on iPhones, but perhaps something new and better will come along. And it will be built by the people, for the people (apologies to A. Lincoln).

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