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Network World - It's easy to forget that not so long ago, no one was sure if Android would ever be relevant.
After all, the Android explosion has really only erupted over the past year, roughly two years after Android made its debut in the fall of 2007. Since January alone, Android has doubled its total market share in the mobile operating system market, and devices based on Android accounted for a whopping 44% of smartphones purchased in the third quarter of 2010, according to research firm ChangeWave. Research firm Gartner has projected that by the end of the year sales of Android devices will exceed those based on the BlackBerry OS and the iPhone OS, meaning that Android will trail only Symbian as the world's most-used mobile operating system.
But for the first two years of its existence, Android had a tough time making major waves. The first device to be based on Android, T-Mobile's HTC G1, made its debut in the fall of 2008 and was mostly overshadowed by more high-profile smartphones such as the Apple iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm. Morgan Slain, the CEO of mobile applications developer SplashData, says that this lack of initial success led a lot of application developers to hesitate before investing too many resources in developing for the platform, despite the fact that it was free and open source.
"We started early doing Android development but at first it was all hype and no sales," he says. "It was a new platform for us. It seemed to have a lot of potential but it was frustrating that there weren't any sales coming in for us."
Scott Webster, who has been covering Android for the past three year as one of the founders of the popular Android Guys blog, says he got a similar vibe from developers he talked to during Android's early years.
"The initial buzz from developers was, 'We don't know what this is yet,'" he says. "There was a huge wait-and-see approach."
Google plugged a large chunk of cash into bringing application developers on board with Android by offering a total of $10 million in prizes as part of its Android Developer Challenge during Android's initial launch. Slain says that while his company and many others entered the challenge, they were still greatly unsure of Android's long-term potential since the operating system wasn't yet available on any marquee devices and there was a sense that Android was "all buzz" without anything to back it up.
That's not to say that Android as a development platform was not enticing. Since Android is a Linux platform that uses Java as its programming language, most software developers on the market found that writing programs for the operating system was a breeze. Google also went out of its way to make posting a new application on the Android Market a snap, as the company does not screen applications sent to the store and will only remove them if it has received legitimate customer complaints.