As I'm sure you know, the G1 will come bundled with the standard core applications that all smart phones include nowadays; an email client, contact manager, calendar, web browser, favorites organizer, calculator, etc. The Maps app has been demonstrated several times in Google promotional videos, as have been the picture browser, SMS client and music player. After downloading a sort of preview version of Android 1.0, I can confirm that all of these elements are nice, and that the telephony interface is pretty slick as well. The in-call options include: swap call, merge call, add call, end call, hold, mute, speaker and bluetooth. There's also a pop-up keypad in case you need to inform an "intelligent" answering service that you understand English and would prefer to speak with a human being.
The question is: what additional apps will come pre-installed on the G1, and what will be available to users post-purchase via the Android Market? It's impossible to accurately forecast which programs will make the final cut for the initial release without some inside info, which I don't have. But we can make educated guesses about which ones are likely to be the first to hit the marketplace, and glimpse potential marketing points for the G1 and future Android phones.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Google has allocated 10 million dollars to motivating developers to come up with unique, useful software that will exploit and showcase the strengths of Android. At the end of August they divided $ 3.75 million in prizes amongst the top 20 contestants in the Android Developer Challenge. Clicking that link will take you to a page filled with screenshots of the winning apps, as well as links to the developers' websites. Most of their homepages have extensive information with cool demos, so it's definitely worth your time to study them. These are the projects that excited Google, and these are the types of programs we are likely to see them pushing to the end-user. While none of them are sure to ship with the G1, you can count on hearing more about (at least) the top ten, very soon.
The pricing structure and business model of the Android Market is a bit hazy at this point, but it is clear that Google's inspirational techniques have encouraged developers to think different (yes, I did that on purpose). I suspect that Google's monetary rewards, in conjunction with what is widely expected to be a free and open marketplace, will result in highly competitive pricing and product development. I think we will see the cell phone reinvented in many ways; with coders conjuring up new uses for the ubiquitous handset that are sure to please the most cynical and demanding consumer. Just a cursory examination of the top 20 applications provides the distinct sense of a unique, progressive and eye-popping identity for Android:
Put it all together, and the future unveiling of the true Android has the potential to be the mind-blowing announcement we had anticipated for the G1; the phone I now see as a sort of stepping stone for Google. Perhaps the blow-your-head-back revelation will occur when the Android Market revs up and, maybe, takes center stage. So far, the options look great: programs that facilitate comparison shopping; a Google talk-capable messaging client, which also allows posting Blogger entries; and an application that coordinates races between athletes at opposite ends of the Earth.
Cloud-based file-sharing, environmental responsibility tracking, collaborative art projects - these are forward-thinking endeavors for a smart phone. Locate a taxi or take a guided walking tour of a strange city, focusing on attractions that fit your unique tastes. Android is designed for the person on the move who likes to stay in touch with their schedule-driven friends and family. And now you can tag your contacts with interests, so you can very quickly send a hot new story you came across in an RSS feed to each of your friends who happen to be proponents of bio-diesel. Dope. (At what age do I have to stop using that word... or was it a year?)
There's one aspect of Android's Linux roots that deserves brief mention here: virtualization. Linux is legendary for it's virtualization capabilities. While this sort of thing is currently of interest only to the geekiest of geeks, it could eventually shake things up a bit for the rest of us. Virtualization is when an operating environment, like Windows, is emulated within another OS. For example; I use Linux for my laptop at home, but can easily run most Windows programs with a sort of emulator called Wine. I can even run an entire Windows desktop via programs like Qemu or VMWare. Parallels for Mac is probably the most widely-known of this type of software. In researching this article, I ran Android on my laptop within Eclipse - the program coders use to test their Android applications. (Not recommended for most readers.)
An ardent tinkerer and Android Market content provider could make virtualization as easy for all of us as installing any other Android application - a few clicks, and it's done. And while I can't guarantee anything, I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually saw a vid or two on YouTube featuring an Android phone running a Windows Mobile app, or (gasp!) an iPhone app. Honestly though, with the stuff we're about to see the hitting Android Market, who needs 'em? Android is open to all, and there will be an equivalent for every smart phone program you can imagine, along with plenty of originals you can't.