SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. It was clear at Google's annual developer conference here that an expanding group of system and software engineers are infatuated with Android, and Google's small band of mobile developers are returning their affections.
The next version of Android, dubbed Donut, will support QVGA, HVGA and WVGA resolutions, developer's revealed in one session. That detail alone cracks the door open to a somewhat broader set of devices than the current 320x480 HTC phones using the operating system.
Google developers were reluctant to provide details, but WVGA generally refers to an 800 to 854 x 480 pixel resolution suitable for displaying an entire Web page on a portable device.
Many of the mobile sessions at the two-day Google I/O event were filled to overflowing. Developers also flocked to ad hoc Q&A sessions held by the Android team while attendance was light by comparison at similar sessions hosted by other Google design teams.
Chip and system vendors said the reasons for the love affair are many. Perhaps the biggest source of attraction is Android's price, or lack of one.
"You get a solid operating system, browser and GSM [cellular] stack for free," said one engineer from Garmin, the GPS maker which is assessing software platforms for a planned smart phone.
Compared to other Linux environments, "the level of sophistication of this code is way beyond what's out there today," said Mark Stevens, a member of technical staff in the digital imaging group at Sharp Laboratories of America.
With Android, OEMs have more control over the software, Stevens added. With commercial alternatives, system makers sometimes have to wait for a software vendor to add new features they want. Alternatively, sometimes they get pushed into unwanted software upgrades.
Sharp is currently researching the use of Android in its large, networked copiers. The environment looks like a good alternative to commercial embedded operating systems, Stevens said.
Engineers from other big systems companies including Hewlett-Packard and Motorola also attended the Android sessions.