Google releases Android SDK beta in the nick of time

Has Google irrevocably damaged its relationship with the mobile developer community? There is undoubtedly growing disillusionment and distrust among the developer segment, who feel the web services giant has taken them for granted: The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was the recent revelation that Google secretly made a new version of its open-source Android OS SDK available to Android Developer Challenge finalists under non-disclosure agreements. "Developers are the driving force behind Android applications, so without them, it would be very hard for Android to have a stance in the market," one independent Android developer reminds InfoWorld. Some developers are so angry they've sworn off the Android platform for good.

Needless to say, Google has a very different view of the Android SDK fiasco. "The [Android Developer Challenge] finalists are helping us update the latest version of the SDK before we release it to the world in the coming weeks," the firm said in an emailed statement. "We wanted to limit the challenges developers face with an early release in a particularly critical time during the challenge to not disadvantage them. We've separated the scheduled releases to not disadvantage these winners who are competing for money, and the public will receive a release of the SDK soon with more documentation and tools." Of course, Google's perspective seems to fly in the face of basic open-source principles, removing developers from the equation when code is at its buggiest and their input and insight are most valuable.

Above all, it seems what we have here is a failure to communicate. So Monday's announcement that Google is publicly releasing the Android 0.9 SDK beta, as well as a development roadmap, could not have come at a better time. According to developer advocate Dan Morrill at the Android Developers Blog, "The platform is now converging on a final Android 1.0 version...[the beta SDK] is the first big step on the SDK's road to compatibility with 1.0. Since this is a beta release, applications developed with it may not quite be compatible with devices running the final Android 1.0. However, the APIs are now pretty stable and we don't expect any major changes." Highlights, according to Morrill: A series of UI changes, new applications including messaging and a music player, new and improved APIs and countless bug repairs. With any luck, the release of the beta SDK also heralds a more communicative Google, one that understands that open source is synonymous with open dialogue. The silence was deafening. -Jason