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Gadget Lab Hardware News and Reviews Android Comes of Age at Google Developer Conference

• Wired

Now three years later, Android is one of the fastest-growing mobile platforms. Even though Google recently announced plans to close the web store for its Nexus One phone, Android itself is still going strong. In the first quarter of the year, a gaggle of Android-based phones grabbed 28 percent of the smartphone market in the United States, trailing Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices (36 percent) and ahead of Apple’s iPhone OS (21 percent), according to research firm The NPD Group.

It’s a stunning growth curve for an independent platform that seemed to emerge out of nowhere. And it has turned Google’s developer event into one of the hottest tickets in town with developers begging for passes to it on Craigslist and eBay. An Android developer told that his company paid $1,600 for a $100 ticket to the conference — with an agreement that any swag handed out will be given to the ticket seller.

“The biggest difference with this conference compared to earlier ones is the sheer amount of interest in the platform,” says Harry Tormey, software engineer at Snaptic, which makes a note-taking app for both Android phones and the iPhone. “It will be interesting to get a feel for where things are going in the mobile space.”

At the Google I/O event May 18 and 19 in San Francisco, Google will likely focus attention on its Chrome browser and operating system, which will run on everything from netbooks to set-top TV boxes. But Android will be a key part of the picture.

Significantly, Google and Intel are expected to unveil an Android-based “Smart TV” platform.

Android developers say they are looking to hear from Google about how to make Android apps better, make money off the platform and deal with the problem of fragmentation with many versions of the OS available on phones currently.

“Android has been so successful so fast and they are iterating quickly,” says Gregg Fiddes, vice-president of sales and business development for Quickoffice, which makes mobile-productivity software. “When you are dealing with custom SDKs that makes it a big challenge.”

Fiddes says his company will be looking for direction from Google on how to cast a wide net with an Android app so it can support a range of devices.

“It’s a tough balancing act,” he says. “OEMs want to differentiate but Google wants to standardize it, so we are hoping Google will offer some clues on how to strike a balance.”

Developers also say they hope to get a closer look at the latest version of Android 2.2, aka “Froyo,” which is expected to have features such as tethering (so you can use your phone as a wireless modem) and the ability to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

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