Popsci recently sat down for a brief question and answer session with Google’s head of mobile platforms, Rich Miner. Rich talks about the development of the Android platform, it’s open source roots, application certification and also admits he’s been using an Android powered phone for over a year now.
Q: Why get into the phone business?
A: I wouldn’t say we’re getting into the phone business. Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible. In many parts of the world, people are never going to have computers. They’re going to have mobile phones. We’re just using phones as a way to deliver on our mission.
Q: Aren’t there other open-source phones out there?
A: There’s open-source, and there’s what the industry refers to as open. There are other Linux-based initiatives but all of the other things you need to build a phone, like media codecs [software decoders], Web browsers, phone dialers, databases, security models—all that stuff is built on top of Linux in ways that aren’t necessarily open. Linux ends up being a very small portion. Everything a developer needs to build a phone, we’re releasing open-source.
Q: Have you seen any particularly impressive or original applications?
A: Somebody wrote an application that would notify him when the bus was turning down his street so he wouldn’t have to stand out in the rain.
Q: Will an Android application have a sort of security seal of approval to let users know that they’re not junky or vulnerable to hackers?
A: The Android platform protects the user from buggy applications. Software can’t read your address book or dial your phone without your knowing about it, for example. But we don’t want to put big hurdles in front of a developer to have to go pay and get something certified and stamped for every single handset they want to be on. We think that’s one of the things that limits innovation.
Q: Do you use an Android phone now?
A: Yes, and I have been for a year. It’s called dog-fooding—in our industry, to “eat your own dog food” is the phrase.