Developers will also be able to modify core elements of the interface and come out with replacements for the basic building blocks that come with Android, such as the address book, Chen said. Even the look of the home-screen widgets will be customizable. For users, that will mean being able to control their own experience by downloading their favorite third-party versions, Chen said.
Google expects the first Android-based devices to hit the market in the second half of this year and will make the finished software platform available to developers after that, so anyone can create their own phone platform, Chen said. The core elements of it will be released under the Apache open-source license.
Until all parts of Android are complete, Google won't start translating the platform and documentation into languages other than English, Chen said in response to a question. The team doesn't want translations to lag behind the current information, he said. But he welcomed an attendee to help Spanish-speaking developers by translating materials or participating in message boards.
Developers praised the platform, in which applications are written in the Java programming language and then compiled for the Dalvik virtual machine.
"It's sweet," said Free Beachler, owner of Longevity Software, in Boulder, Colorado. Beachler wrote an entry for the Android Developer Challenge, a competition to find the 50 best Android applications. His software, designed to store itineraries, contacts, destinations and other travel information for users on their phones, didn't make the top 50. But he's working on two projects for Android Developer Challenge 2, which will take place after handsets are out and the platform are complete.
Beachler, a Web developer, said it took time to learn to use Android but once he did it was logically organized and easy to use. He compared it to languages such as PHP for Web development.
Rob Mickle, a computer science major at the University of Colorado, also said he liked working with Android. Mickle developed Fingerprint, a collaborative drawing application, in about five months. It was selected for the top 50 in the Android Developer Challenge.
Enterprises are asking R Systems International, a software services company in El Dorado, California, to write applications that work on any mobile platform, said Harsh Verma, vice president for global innovative research at R Systems. One way to do this is on browsers, but there are problems with that, including differences among mobile browsers and the need for a network connection, he said. Verma hasn't yet started working with Android but believes it could reach a broad range of devices.