July 29, 2014

As Usual, Some Tech Bloggers Are Getting it Wrong

There’s a pretty big stink right now about Google letting the top 50 entrants from the Android Developers Challenge get advance use of the latest Android SDK. A lot of tech sites and bloggers are acting as if this was something from out of the blue. Here’s a sample of what I found being reported…

“Some developers indeed are working with an updated SDK — one that was issued in secret.”

“Google has intentionally disadvantaged many developers and kept the broader Android community in the dark about the progress of the platform.”

First, let me clear the air up on the first quote. There is no secret. The public knew months ago that the semi-finalists in ADC 1 would receive the latest copy of the SDK, before everyone else does. There was an email sent out to all fifty teams letting them know that they’d get it about 3 weeks before the deadline for round 2 of the challenge. Here’s a snippet of the email:

As a Round 2 participant, we’ll be providing you with the most up-to-date Android SDK so that you can take advantage of the latest tools & platform capabilities that will be shipping in devices later this year…these releases are definitely “bleeding edge.” Approximately 3 weeks before the submission deadline, we will provide a final early access SDK. You will need to submit your entry using this version of the SDK.

Since these early access SDKs are not ready for the public, you need to execute a special SDK license. This is the same SDK license that governs the public SDK with the addition of a confidentiality clause.

We reported this back on May 20th – almost two full months ago. I’m not sure why this is getting such traction right now. As far as Google intentionally putting many developers at a disadvantage with this goes, that’s another argument. Personally, I think it’s more of a “perk” for the top 50 to get the sneak look. Google never said that they weren’t giving it to the public. All other developers will be getting it over the next few weeks/months.

Being that I am not a developer, I probably have a slightly different look at this situation. I can imagine the frustration that some might be feeling, wanting to get their hands on an updated kit. But, and here’s the big but… there’s nothing wrong with Google wanting these top developers to submit their apps on a version of the SDK that closely resembles the platform shipping later this year.

Switching from Defense to Offense

To keep things impartial as possible, I do have a couple things I would like to say from the other side of the debate. Google should step up in a personal matter and address the situation with getting the public a new SDK. Get Andy Rubin or Dan Morrill to send out an email or post on the official Android blog. Give us something that says “We hear you and are working to get you the new version as soon as…” The quicker the better, as right now there’s a lot of misconception that needs to be cleared up.

Google would also do well to announce as much concrete information as possible as soon as they have it. Start that hype machine up with an official launch date or some blurry photos of a device. Heck, even some new video would help. You have to do something to keep people from getting shackled to 2 year contracts with 3G iPhones or new BlackBerry handsets. There’s about 6 months worth of customers who might wait a little bit longer if they knew something better was not far off.

There’s a lot of work left to do on all fronts. The more open communication between Google, developers, and fanboys, the better. We’re all on the same team here. The last thing any of us wants to do is get mad and take our ball home. Or pick up a different sport.