Is Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) annual I/O developer conference becoming the new Macworld Expo? Yesterday's event had all the trappings of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) annual lovefest, including an Oprah moment in which the search king gave away as many as 4,000 new Android-powered HTC smartphones to attendees.
Call it symbolism: Google recently announced its second Android developer contest. Last year's winners were rich with disruptive ideas such as GoCart, which lets shoppers scan bar codes using the phone's camera, then compare prices with other local stores.
Crazier software may be forthcoming. Why? This time, Google isn't limiting entries to known developers. Anyone with an Android handset can get in the contest by voting and evaluating entries. The contest promises $250,000 in cash to the overall winner; thousands more in cash will be distributed to winning entries in 10 different categories.
Google will begin accepting entries in August, and new software should begin to appear months later. The lure of becoming America's Next Top Software Developer -- American Idol-style, anointed by the Big G and showered in cash -- could spark of a wave of development that populates the Android Market at a time when Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , and Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) all are seeking to dethrone Apple as the king of mobile software.
The Big G might have the upper hand among these would-be rivals. Not because of what Android is, but what it could be. Rumors persist that Google will one day elevate the operating system to something capable of powering a netbook. Aren't you at least a little curious to see whether developers design with an Android netbook in mind?
You should be.
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