t can be said that, for a while, traditional desktop application developers have been spoiled. This is not to say that traditional desktop application development is easier than other forms of development. However, as traditional desktop application developers, we have had the ability to create almost any kind of application we can imagine. I am including myself in this grouping because I got my start in desktop programming. One aspect that has made desktop programming more accessible is that we have had the ability to interact with the desktop operating system, and thus interact with any underlying hardware, pretty freely (or at least with minimal exceptions). This kind of freedom to program independently, however, has never really been available to the small group of programmers who dared to venture into the murky waters of cell phone development.
I refer to two different kinds of developers in this discussion: traditional desktop application developers , who work in almost any language and whose end product, applications, are built to run on any “desktop” operating system; and Android developers , Java developers who develop for the Android platform. This is not for the purposes of saying one is by any means better or worse than the other. Rather, the distinction is made for purposes of comparing the development styles and tools of desktop operating system environments to the mobile operating system environment, Android.
Brief History of Embedded Device Programming
For a long time, cell phone developers comprised a small sect of a slightly larger group of developers known as embedded device developers. Seen as a less “glamorous” sibling to desktop—and later web—development, embedded device development typically got the Key Skills & Concepts
● History of embedded device programming
● Explanation of Open Handset Alliance
● First look at the Android home screen
Chapter 1: What Is Android? 3
proverbial short end of the stick as far as hardware and operating system features, because embedded device manufacturers were notoriously stingy on feature support. Embedded device manufacturers typically needed to guard their hardware secrets closely, so they gave embedded device developers few libraries to call when trying to interact with a specific device.
Embedded devices differ from desktops in that an embedded device is typically a “computer on a chip.” For example, consider your standard television remote control; it is not really seen as an overwhelming achievement of technological complexity. When any button is pressed, a chip interprets the signal in a way that has been programmed into the device. This allows the device to know what to expect from the input device (key pad), and how to respond to those commands (for example, turn on the television). This is a simple form of embedded device programming. However, believe it or not, simple devices such as these are definitely related to the roots of early cell phone devices and development.
Most embedded devices ran (and in some cases still run) proprietary operating systems. The reason for choosing to create a proprietary operating system rather than use any consumer system was really a product of necessity. Simple devices did not need very robust and optimized operating systems.
As a product of device evolution, many of the more complex embedded devices, such as early PDAs, household security systems, and GPSs, moved to somewhat standardized operating system platforms about five years ago. Small-footprint operating systems such as Linux, or even an embedded version of Microsoft Windows, have become more prevalent on many embedded devices. Around this time in device evolution, cell phones branched from other embedded devices onto their own path. This branching is evident when you examine their architecture.
Nearly since their inception, cell phones have been fringe devices insofar as they run on proprietary software—software...
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