No Bluetooth APIs in Google's Android! D'oh!

Some development or product manager at Google's "got some 'splainin to do," announcing the Google Android cell phone OS won't support Bluetooth APIs in the Android 0.9 SDK release. D'oh! (See this Computerworld article by Dan Nystedt.) That's a blow to both developers and Android cell-phone manufacturers such as HTC, which is bringing out the Android-supported HTC Dream. This almost sounds like Google taking a page out of the Apple iPhone product manager's "these aren't the cell phone features you're looking for" handbook. More likely, this is just, as the Android Developer's blog states, that they ran out of time necessary to get the APIs into the 0.9 SDK release. But the question is, why? In either case, it's still a dumb mistake; and Google's getting a black eye, appropriately so, for making such an announcement at the 11th hour.

Are these Bluetooth APIs so important? They're just APIs, after all. In a word, yes. Though users will probably be able to do such basic things as connect up a Bluetooth headset to an Android phone, not much else will be available, particularly for applications. Apple's set the app bar high with its successful SDK release and App Store, forcing Android to be more than just a better phone OS. Not having Bluetooth APIs means developers won't be able to program for Bluetooth functionality in apps or games -- something, frankly, my business is particularly interested in. Cell phones are quickly becoming "about the apps," and tying developers' hands by removing planned functionality at the last minute means developers now have to consider other options for their apps or bide their time until the APIs are available. Either way, it's costly to Android developers.

As a "product guy," you hate surprises at the last minute, especially unplanned changes or functionality removed from a product, which almost always has significant ripples downstream to customers, partners, developers, etc. In this case, if what Google's Android blog states is true, Google just didn't do an adequate job of understanding upcoming (and known) changes to the Bluetooth spec, and found out the task of providing well-designed APIs wasn't going to be possible in the time allotted.

I can understand Google's desire not to come out with some shoddy APIs that would have to be redone -- something that also would drive development partners nuts. This situation was probably one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things, once the Android team realized what was involved with creating the Bluetooth APIs.

In either case, Google's got some shoring up to do, so surprises like this aren't commonplace with Android. Developers won't hang around long if Google can't provide a reasonably stable product functionality plan. Who does Google think it is, after all -- Apple? :)

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