May 21, 2012
I recently made an interesting discovery when researching to see if my favorite custom ROM (really just a stock Ice Cream Sandiwch for the Samsung Captivate) was going to be updated: it was developed by high school kids in their spare time. They were delayed on working on it because of AP tests. Really.
This seems silly, but it’s really just a reminder of how the world of technology is changing: it’s open season for anyone with the ability and desire to work on these phones.
It starts at the XDA forums, where seemingly hundreds of devices – even carrier-specific device variants – are having their code tinkered with by community members, trying to get the experience they want – much to the chagrin of the manufacturers themselves. Viva la GPL!
Remember the story of George Hotz, the college dropout hacker who worked on several exploits to jailbreak the iPhone, then caused major trouble for Sony when he hacked the PS3. He’s currently 22, and had actually worked at Facebook for a short while, which is probably the least of his accomplishments so far.
Even for legitimate app makers, the ability to get an app published on a legitimate platform is there. For those looking to make a living off of it, the market is rough, but for the person that wants to make an app or game that stands alongside the professionals, that opportunity exists.
The tech market is even at a point where relative youth is getting a shot at shaking things up. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college, as everyone famously knows. Josh Buckley, founder of MinoMonsters, isn’t even old enough to legally drink in the US, and yet he’s gotten money from venture capital firms. The tech market, that the mobile market is a huge part of, is open to those with ideas.
Even for those giant multinational corporations, think about what Android offers: an operating system that can be tailored to run on many different types of hardware. It’s something that OpenSignalMaps pointed out even as they delineated the amount of fragmentation out there: Android is everywhere, and people who want an Android device of some kind probably have it. Watches, little thumbsticks that plug into TVs that are Android-powered, who knows, maybe the next toaster I buy will run Android. The open-source nature of the OS makes it possible, and a lot has been done thanks to these possibilities.
So, while there’s a lot of negativity to dwell on – the continued struggle of those who want to make a living, and the potential harm to end-user products that the patent wars may produce – there’s still a lot to sit back and admire. The mobile market, with Android being a part of it, is breaking down barriers and opening up creative technology to all sorts of people who didn’t have access before.