Google is offering cash prizes for developers to build applications for its Android mobile phone OS. The prizes will range from $25,000 to $275,000, according to News.com. The Android operating system will be the first release from the Open Handset Alliance, which the search giant set up with 33 other companies, including handset makers and wireless service providers. The goal is an open source mobile phone software stack that will run on any of the participating companies' handsets.
So if the project is open source and there's a relatively large community committed to work on it, why is it necessary to entice developers with cash prizes? Besides the obvious -- it's always good to be paid for one's work, after all -- this blog post from Stephen Shankland at News.com suggests one possibility:
Google's Android software gives Sun Microsystems' Java technology a starring role--but not the version of Java the rest of the mobile phone industry has been developing since the 1990s....
One difference is Google's development of its own core Java virtual machine (JVM) technology.... But a more significant departure than just using an in-house JVM is the fact that Android isn't part of the Java Community Process that Sun established in 1999 to oversee the development of new Java features.
A Google engineer quoted in Shankland's piece says the community APIs don't allow the degree of developer freedoms to which the Open Handset Alliance is committed:
"We wanted the platform to be open in a lot of different ways," said Mike Cleron, a Google senior staff engineer working on Android. "The idea is that anybody can come along and replace the pieces of the Android experience on a very fine-grained level...."
However, some observers wonder what further fragmentation of the Java platform for mobile devices will mean.