Android is an operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. It is developed by the Open Handset Alliance led by Google.
Google purchased the initial developer of the software, Android Inc., in 2005. The unveiling of the Android distribution on November 5, 2007 was announced with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 84 hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices. Google released most of the Android code under the Apache License, a free software license. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is tasked with the maintenance and further development of Android.
Android consists of a kernel based on the Linux kernel, with middleware, libraries and APIs written in C and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries based on Apache Harmony. Android uses the Dalvik virtual machine with just-in-time compilation to run Dalvik dex-code (Dalvik Executable), which is usually translated from Java bytecode.
Android has a large community of developers writing applications ("apps") that extend the functionality of the devices. Developers write primarily in a customized version of Java.There are currently approximately 400,000 apps available for Android, from a total of 600,000 apps over the life of Android. Apps can be downloaded from third-party sites or through online stores such as Android Market, the app store run by Google.
Android was listed as the best-selling smartphone platform worldwide in Q4 2010 by Canalys with over 200 million Android devices in use by November 2011.
Android, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, United States in October, 2003 by Andy Rubin (co-founder of Danger), Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire Communications, Inc.), Nick Sears (once VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (headed design and interface development at WebTV) to develop, in Rubin's words "...smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences". Despite the obvious past accomplishments of the founders and early employees, Android Inc. operated secretly, revealing only that it was working on software for mobile phones.
That same year, Rubin ran out of money. Steve Perlman brought him $10,000 in cash in an envelope and refused a stake in the company.
Google acquired Android Inc. in August 2005, making Android Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Google Inc. Key employees of Android Inc., including Andy Rubin, Rich Miner and Chris White, stayed at the company after the acquisition. Not much was known about Android Inc. at the time of the acquisition, but many assumed that Google was planning to enter the mobile phone market with this move.
On November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of several companies which include Broadcom Corporation, Google, HTC, Intel, LG, Marvell Technology Group, Motorola, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Texas Instruments unveiled itself. The goal of the Open Handset Alliance is to develop open standards for mobile devices. On the same day, the Open Handset Alliance also unveiled their first product, Android, a mobile device platform built on the Linux kernel version 2.6.
On December 9, 2008, 14 new members joined, including ARM Holdings, Atheros Communications, Asustek Computer Inc, Garmin Ltd, Huawei Technologies, PacketVideo, Softbank, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba Corp, and Vodafone Group Plc.
The source code for Android is available under free and open source software licenses. Google published their Linux kernel changes under the GNU General Public License version 2, and the rest of the code (including network and telephony stacks) under the Apache License version 2.0. Google also keeps the reviewed issues list publicly open for anyone to see and comment.
The Open Handset Alliance develops the GPL-licensed part of Android, that is their changes to the Linux kernel, in public, with source code publicly available at all times. The rest of Android is developed in private, with source code released publicly when a major new version is released. Typically Google collaborates with a hardware manufacturer to produce a flagship device featuring the new version of Android, then makes the source code available after that device has been released.
Even though the software is open source, device manufacturers cannot use Google's Android trademark unless Google certifies that the device complies with their Compatibility Definition Document (CDD). Devices must also meet this definition to be eligible to license Google's closed-source applications, including the Android Market.
In September 2010, Skyhook Wireless filed a lawsuit against Google in which they alleged that Google had used the compatibility document to block Skyhook's mobile positioning service (XPS) from Motorola's Android mobile devices. In December 2010 a judge denied Skyhook's motion for preliminary injunction, saying that Google had not closed off the possibility of accepting a revised version of Skyhook's XPS service, and that Motorola had terminated their contract with Skyhook because Skyhook wanted to disable Google's location data collection functions on Motorola's devices, which would have violated Motorola's obligations to Google and its carriers.
In early 2011, Google chose to temporarily withhold the Android source code to the tablet-only Honeycomb release, creating doubts over Google's commitment to open source with Android. The reason, according to Andy Rubin in an official Android blog post, was because Honeycomb was rushed for production of the Motorola Xoom, and they did not want third parties creating a "really bad user experience" by attempting to put onto smartphones a version of Android intended for tablets. The source code was made available again in November 2011 with the release of Android 4.0.