Saturday, November 17, 2007

Google builds its own virtual machine for Android

Google Inc. is expanding into mobile phone software, and according to some reports, into offering mobile services. Google is taking no chances. It wants its applications including search in everyone's mobile phone, and is averse to cutting revenue sharing deals with handset makers or service providers.

So Google adopts a new spiel that will surely resonate with a lot of consumers - vendor or operator lock-in is bad, and we are all better off if the mobile Internet is free.

But Google's own way about going with its Android platform for mobile phones suggests that Google may want to create lock-ins of its own.

"Instead of using the standards-based Java Micro Edition (JME) as an engine to run Java applications, Google wrote its own virtual machine for Android, calling it Dalvik. There are technical advantages and disadvantages to using Dalvik, developers said, but technology may not have been the driver for Google", according to this report in Computerworld.

Rather than require phone makers to license JME as part of Android, Stefano Mazzocchi said, Google built its own virtual machine. Dalvik converts Java byte codes into Dalvik byte codes, Computerworld quoted Stefano Mazzocchi, a developer and board member at Apache Labs, as saying.

A phone maker could freely use JME under an open-source license if it shares innovations to the software with the community, but most large handset makers are reluctant to do that, Mazzocchi said. Dalvik converts Java byte codes into Dalvik byte codes.

What this means is that Android is not going to make developers any happier. They will still have to write software to JME and Dalvik, and also for the platforms of other vendors who support different foundation software. Dalvik will just be one more option for them.

It may not make consumers happy either. If I have an application running on JME, it may not run on Dalvik. Google is in effect perpetuating consumer lock-ins with its own presumably non-standard implementation of a virtual machine.

In effect Android, although open source, does not then qualify as a truly open standard, but just a fork in the long and frustrating struggle to open-ness on the mobile phone.

Related Articles:

Google wants an equal chance to get into your mobile phone

A Google phone. So why the fuss ?

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