Motorola’s “Derivative Version” of Android

moto_logoThe MOTODEV podcast popped up in my Google Listen “Android” search results today, and I heard something really interesting in this week’s edition. Jason Warren, part of Motorola’s software product management team, talked about the Cliq and in general about what Moto is doing with Android. He said the Cliq is “the first device that’s running the first version of not only Motoblur, but also the first version of our derivative version of Android.” He went on to say that “it’ll be great to get developers … using some of the new APIs we’ve added on top of what’s in Cupcake.”

I’d been under the impression that Motoblur was just UI that sits on top of standard-issue Cupcake, but Jason makes pretty clear that Motorola is using its own tweaked build of Android itself, Motoblur notwithstanding.

It almost sounded like apps developed for Moto-flavored Android might not work with other flavors. I checked in with MOTODEV on Twitter and they assured me that “we created a derivative that is 100% compatible with the ‘reference’ vers. of Android.

The rest of the podcast is worth a listen as well, covering why Motorola chose the Android basket to put all its eggs in, along with a hard pitch to developers on why they should be writing apps for Android.

They also mentioned that Motoblur’s email client has a lot more flexibility as far as attaching a variety of file types to emails than the standard Android email app.

The podcast is an official organ of Moto’s developer outreach site.

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  • Dorel

    Let's hope they don't start all creating Android derivatives that work only on their phones. That would be a total disaster posing the same old strains on the developer: Be compatible with 30 platforms and/or phone models. That would certainly kill (fragment) the Android as a platform. And I would totally agree with Google creating a Android TCK and sell the "Standard Android" label to all those thinking of abusing the open values behind it.

  • WWenthin

    I'm curious about the dev environment. It looks like standard eclipse with some cool add ons like being able to sign and upload your app inside of eclipse. Anyone delved into it as a development platform?

    • Hi,

      I'm the product manager for MOTODEV Studio. It is Eclipse + the Google plugins and quite a few enhancements that we've added. We'd love to get your feedback on how it works for you.

      As for MOTOBLUR and APIs, I'm not privy to everything that Jason is and I'm not certain what he was referring to in the podcast. However, it's in nobody's best interests to start fragmenting the platform now. I've been using my CLIQ (prototype) for 3 months both with and without MOTOBLUR and I'm not having problems running apps I write and download from the Google Market.

      Eric C

      • WWenthin

        I played with it this weekend. I was disappointed that it will not update to the latest google tools and is stuck at 0.91. I would have loved to play with it more but I needed to get some work done. Are there plans to let this upgrade in the future?

  • I'm pretty sure that it's going to go the same way as Java ME. Handset manufactures have to offer a little bit extra to compete on handset sales. Once Motorola does this, others device manufacturers will then follow. Where they loop in the developer is they offer UI extensions that will give their app the look and feel for their device, otherwise the app will look really out of place.

    Of course, devs could still write to the standards for cross-device interoperability, but then some competitor app wouldn't, making their application just a little more compelling on that device.

    I think this is a slippery slope that once crossed (and it will be crossed), will snow ball into the Java ME effect.

  • sha

    The problem with j2me was all 'basic' features of today weren't in the original spec… All majors APIs (network, gps, touch, sensors) are and will be in android core, so I guess almost all applications will be compatible with all android devices who have passed the CTS…

    the Android user base is already small, nobody wants to dev for 10% of it ! (that's suicidal)

    Besides, if Motorola or HTC add a multitouch API in android, and not Google, I will definitely quit the Android dev boat

  • Dianne

    For any android device with market: just write your app as you normally do, and it will run on other devices with market (modulo the inevitable bugs here in there for which there is a strong incentive to fix in maintenance updates).

    For a device with special features you want to use, the manufacturer supplies those features as a separate library, and you must use <uses-library> to access them. That way you know what you are doing, you don't get tricked into tying yourself to one phone, and market won't show your app to users who are running devices without those APIs.

  • Google does have a multitouch API of sorts… Something about single-point input being a real number between zero and one, and multitouch surpasses one. It's really rough and probably not what they expect us to use, but it's there.

  • yeah I asked Moto Dev and they seemed open to the idea of more API's. But they have to be careful not to fragment the market.
    "@GodsMoon at this time MOTOBLUR doesn't have apis to access but we've heard that feedback from lots of devs and will relay it to the team"

  • James Bailey

    Wow, this is a slippery slope to disaster for Android. The last thing Android needs is to have forked versions. The variety of hardware is already making things hard for developers. If the APIs start diverging, there will be such a fragmentation that no developer will be able to survive writing Android apps.

  • ch3wt0y

    Carriers should not modify the OS or the interface. Period. End of story. Ever.

    I don't want "Blur". I don't want "Sense". I want Android, and I want it to be continually, RAPIDLY improved, and that means providing a consistent platform, all the way up to the UI, for all Android phones.

    To phone makers: No one wants to pay you for software development of the OS. Focus all of your efforts on making better hardware and on making Android better able to take advantage of the hardware (meaning if you have 3D acceleration in your hardware, YOU need to focus your software work on making Android able to take advantage of it).

    To carriers: No one wants to pay you for software development of the OS. (Are you seeing the pattern here yet?) All we want from you is to focus on your service, which is providing broadband, high-speed cellular access at low cost with great customer service. If you develop software to modify the OS or the interface or to cripple the platform (Verizon, wake up!), you are doing what we do NOT want you to do. You are making us LESS likely to buy from you.

    To Google: WTF are you thinking encouraging carriers to do this crap? It's your job to continually engage with the development community, including the people doing the planning at the carriers and the handset makers and making sure that what is needed or successful gets folded into the base OS, not turned into a different version of the OS.

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