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Tech history: Android OS first released commercially

23 September 2008: Initial release of Android OS

Google Android - the mobile operating system that currently boasts 85% of the worldwide smartphone volume, and has made over $22 billion in profit [figure from 2016] for Google, is still less than a decade old, and actually, didn’t even belong to Google/Alphabet in its earliest years. (So credit goes to whoever at Google suggested buying it!)

Android was initially developed by Android Inc. as a touch interface for cameras. Google saw the potential for something more and bought Android Inc. in 2005. Android was unveiled two years later,  along with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance. However, it wasn’t until 23 September 2008, that the first commercially available version of Android for mobile phones (known simply as Android 1.0) was released, on the HTC Dream handset.

Early features were basic - a simple web browser and support for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps and YouTube, as well as the Google Talk messenger app. Today of course, Android’s list of features has exploded, and includes enhanced features, the Play store, and virtual reality platform Daydream. Android is now no longer simply a mobile OS, but a fully-fledged operating system that appears on tablets, TV streamers and plenty of other devices.

 

Android: free and open source

At the beginning of Google’s forays into the mobile world, BlackBerry was the dominant smartphone, and Apple’s iOS was catching up fast since the release of the iPhone in June 2007. Google’s (some would say genius) strategy was to basically give Android away in the hopes that it would become the dominant mobile OS. It worked – it did. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Google from monetising its ‘free’ operating system. The Google Play store, launched on 6 March 2012, brought together the earlier Android Market, with Google Music and the Google eBookstore. It now also includes Google Play Music, Movies & TV, Books, Games and Newsstand, and according to Credit Suisse, Google Play (and YouTube) now forms 15% of Google's revenues.

Google also now has tighter restrictions on how Android is used by OEMs if they want to keep the benefits of Google Play and other core Google apps. The result is Android isn’t as open source as it used to be, though technically it still is since the core Android platform, (the Android Open Source Project), is free and available for anyone to download, alter and build on, as they see fit.

 

Android 8.0 Oreo

In March 2017, Google released the first developer preview of the 8th major release of the Android operating system: Android Oreo. The last developer preview was released on 24 July and the final version of Android 8.0 Oreo was released on 21 August. The Android Oreo update rolled out first for, predictably, the Pixel and Pixel XL, as well as the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus Player and Pixel C, and will trickle down through other non-Google devices over the next few months.

Oreo’s improvements include 2x faster boot speed when powering up, picture-in-picture video mode, notifications ‘dots’, a fully redesigned emoji set (important stuff), and background limits that aim to improve system performance. Ultimately, Google says it’s, “Smarter, faster, more powerful and sweeter than ever. The world’s favorite cookie is your new favorite Android release.” Most interesting (to me anyway) is the fact that Google didn’t pay any money to Oreo’s maker Mondelēz, to use the name. Instead it is a “pure co-branding partnership.” Though a press release stated, “The Android OREO partnership will entail a variety of global initiatives designed to create innovative, playful experiences for both OREO and Android fans.”

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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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