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Android Arrives

In a phone interview, a sleep-deprived Dave Bort, the Google engineer spearheading the Android Open Source Project, said that Android would benefit industry players and phone users by providing an open smartphone standard and by relieving developers of having to reinvent the wheel.
In a phone interview, a sleep-deprived Dave Bort, the Google engineer spearheading the Android Open Source Project, said that Android would benefit industry players and phone users by providing an open smartphone standard and by relieving developers of having to reinvent the wheel."Even if you start off with free parts like Linux and WebKit, there's still a ton of work to integrate these pieces and get them to work together," Bort said.

Google's role as ringmaster, Bort believes, is crucial. He expects Google will help keep Android vital, so that developers continue to have faith in it. "It's important that the Android platform stays a living platform that has a lot of input from the industry," he said.

Bort said that he expects Android to improve the security of mobile devices. The traditional model, he said, is predicated on centralized control. But that model also doesn't let users do what they want with their phones.

"As soon as you say there's going to be no central authority...then security via control just doesn't work anymore," Bort said. "So then you need to start looking into real security."

Bort concedes that carriers and the Android Market may have a means to control applications, like a kill switch, but he expects that not everyone will follow that model.

It's a reasonable argument, given that perimeter security is widely seen as ineffective on its own these days. The preference is for a defense-in-depth strategy, where there are firewalls as well as controls on computing processes and data movement.

Android phones will have to prove that they're more secure than the competition, of course. But if Android allows for security measures like remote data wipes or data wipes after repeated incorrect passwords, then it will be ahead of what the iPhone has to offer at the moment.

In any event, a new platform has been born today. Let the competition begin.

Update:In a follow-up e-mail, Bort elaborated, "The Android Market is designed so developers can make their applications easily available to users. While we encourage that community aspect, we are also very careful with the safety and security of users. In limited cases where an application has a malicious intent, we will remove it from the Market and potentially uninstall it from user devices to ensure the safety of the Android Market community."

(The Google public relations person watching over Bort, I think, had a hand in this, perhaps to clarify what Bort in his state of sleep-deprivation glossed over.)