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Trouble Among the Androids

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The Google-led Android project is facing a sticky situation with developers, who are angry about apparent favoritism being shown to some developers. This is the latest twist in the road in what is becoming a difficult birth.

 

Network World reports that developers have not gotten an update to the buggy software developers kit (SDK) used to build applications for four months. The piece excerpts a post from Android engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru that says the Android team shares the community's frustration. Network World pointed out that the post -- which the story links to -- gave no indication of when the new SDK would be available.

 

The Network World piece actually was mistaken, through no fault of the writer. Some developers indeed are working with an updated SDK -- one that was issued in secret. Ars Technica says that Android made an updated SDK available to the winners of the Android Developer Challenge under a non-disclosure agreement.

 

The apparent favoritism was revealed, the story says, when a Google employee accidentally sent a note about the SDK to a public Android mailing list. The piece says that the Android Developer Challenge Round two participants acknowledge getting the updated SDK, but will comment no further because of the non-disclosure agreement.

 

Eric Zeman at InformationWeek points out the obvious unfairness of this situation. It seems worse because it is happening in the context of an open source development project. Open source is predicated on egalitarianism and even-handedness. While this would be a problem in any environment, it likely will rankle open source developers a bit more.

 

OStatic points out that Google has done nothing illegal. The real danger is the perception: Developers -- especially the good ones -- have a number of choices as the world of smartphones and advanced devices opens up. It is, to Mike Gunderloy, all about openness:

Android still has a chance to end up on the more open end of the spectrum - but only if they attend to the developer community and demonstrate a commitment to leveling the playing field for everyone.

The perception -- the optics, as commentators this political season call the way in which a message is seen by those watching -- is awful for Google and the rest of those running Android. They should do another thing that political professionals talk about: "Get in front of the message" by issuing a mea culpa or two. They should do this before more harm is done to their relationship with developers.

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