Historically used most widely in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the Android operating system (OS) has taken on new markets outside this space. Developers using ARM processors tend to gravitate toward Android for its flexibility, power and versatility. Based on the open source Linux kernel, Android retains many of the characteristics of open source software, even with Google’s acquisition of Android, it morphed into a hybrid model – between a commercial and open source OS. However, the benefit to Android is that it is license free and protected from claims by the open source community. Android is pre-configured with a powerful set of capabilities. Google defines the middleware, multimedia frameworks and key system firmware associated with the OS, which differs from open source OSes such as Linux where developers must integrate these capabilities into the open source kernel.
The number of Android smartphone applications was exceeded 400,000 (as of October 2011), which proves its magnitude of growth. Frequent releases of Android and a roadmap for the future show longevity and commitment to the OS. The most recent release was Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, which merged the smartphone and tablet pieces of the OS into a single version.