Android is a mobile operating system that can be used on mobile phones, smartphones, and other portable devices like e-readers, car radios, and media players. The operating system makes use of Linux and Java, an open-source platform and programming language, respectively.
Android was developed by a company called Android Inc. Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android Inc. has said that they wanted to developed a free operating system that could be used by a wide variety of mobile phones. At that time, it was more usual for mobile phone manufacturers to pay a licensing fee to software companies, like Microsoft, to be able to use their software. Rubin, on the other hand, had a plan to make money from selling extra services, like storage space and security, instead.
Robot-mad Rubin dubbed his free operating system Android, and it wasn't long before Google showed an interest. Google acquired Android Inc. in 2005. The internet giant had noticed from their search results that more and more people were surfing mobile, and they wanted to make sure that in the future mobile surfers would use services made by Google. They knew that having their own mobile operating system would enable them to keep promoting Google Search and Gmail to mobile phone users. Google kept the Android software free to persuade as many mobile phone manufacturers as possible to use their new mobile operating system.
On 5 November 2007 Google announced the formation of the Open Hardware Alliance, or OHA. This new alliance was formed from the largest players in the telecommunications industry, including HTC, Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. The OHA wasted no time in announcing that the new operating system Android would be distributed free to all its members. The very next year the first Android mobile phone was already available in the retail market. This was the HTC Dream, otherwise known as the T-Mobile G1, made by HTC and first released in the United States.
In the autumn of 2008 Google released the source code for its Android operating system for public use under the Apache License. This is a free software license composed by the Apache Software Foundation, a non-profit corporation, basically made up from a community of developers with altruistic interests when it comes to distributing software. From then on anyone with an interest in developing software was able to look under the hood and find out about the workings of the Android operating system.
Android phones now come standard with Google applications installed. These include Google Maps and Google Search. Users can also synchronize their data and contacts from Gmail and similar services to their new phones using Google's online services. More than half a million applications are available to download from the new Google Play website (previously known as Android Market), a service launched in March 2012.
Android is now on its 4th release. The “Ice Cream Sandwich” of operating systems promises “easy multitasking, rich notifications, customizable home screens, resizeable widgets, and deep interactivity”. The success of the operating system is obvious. Almost half of all mobile phones made today have the Android operating system installed. The best Android phones offer a huge amount of features, the most exciting and freeform app store available and a rich diversity of features; leaving Android at the pinnacle of mobile technology.