WASHINGTON: Google on Tuesday released the open-source code which powers its Android mobile operating system and invited outside programmers to tinker with the software to develop their own features.
"Today is a big day for Android, the Open Handset Alliance, and the open-source community," wrote Dave Bort, a Google software engineer, on source.android.com, the site where the code is available for downloading.
"All of the work that we've poured into the mobile platform is now officially available, for free, as the Android Open Source Project," Bort said in a blog posting.
"It's a complete, end-to-end software platform that can be adapted to work on any number of hardware configurations," he said, inviting outside computer programmers to download Android and begin developing their own applications.
"Have a great idea for a new feature? Add it! As an open-source project, the best part is that anyone can contribute to Android and influence its direction," Bort said.
The expected release of the Android open-source code came on the eve of the arrival in stores of the Android-based T-Mobile G1 phone, Internet search king Google's challenge to the hot-selling Apple iPhone.
The Mountain View, California-based company unveiled its long-awaited smart phone last month, the first of what is expected to be a generation of devices built on the Android operating platform.
The phones, which cost 179 dollars, 20 dollars cheaper than the iPhone 3G, go on sale in the United States on Wednesday, in Britain in early November and in other European countries served by telecom carrier T-Mobile in early 2009.
The G1 offers many of the features of the iPhone and Research in Motion's popular BlackBerry including a touch screen similar to that of the iPhone, a trackball for navigation, high-speed Internet browsing, Wi-Fi, email, instant messaging and SMS texting.
Google hopes to establish Android as the standard operating system for mobile phones and to improve the quality of web-browsing for handset users. This would drive traffic to the company's websites.
Google has already held the first of what is to be an annual "Android Developers Challenge" and given away five million dollars in prize money for innovative software tailored to the platform.
The Android-enabled "G Phone" can incorporate applications from any number of developers while the iPhone, for example, runs on Apple software.
But Google software faces fierce competition from the world's biggest mobile phone maker, Nokia, and its Symbian system. US software giant Microsoft also has a Windows system for mobiles and a separate consortium is working on an open-source Linux solution.
Google announced the Open Handset Alliance in November of last year to develop Android. It includes China Mobile, HTC, Intel, Motorola, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, Telefonica, LG and eBay.
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