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Monday, September 29, 2008

Android makes music for local developer

Steve Oldmeadow has never set foot in Silicon Valley, but this month the software developer from Perth became one of a select few to be handed a $120,000 cheque from Google.

The windfall was prize-money for a musical application called "Rayfarla" purpose built by Mr Oldmeadow in a developer challenge for Google's new Android mobile phone platform.

Android is a free mobile phone operating system and the first handset to bear its software will be released next month in the US by T-mobile.

Much like the iPhone, Android phones will be able to download dozens of mini applications such as Rayfarla that are much more focused on fun, lifestyle and entertainment than traditional computer software.

With its quirky mix of modules including a virtual cowbell, a rhythm based arcade game, and a number of virtual musical instruments, Mr Oldmeadow said Rayfarla (a wordplay on do-re-mi) was very much the product of his own experiences as an amateur musician.

"Rayfarla was designed to appeal to variety of people because it includes virtual music instruments and a lot of games. The original thinking was that kids would come in to play the games, and in the process learn more about music. From there they could start making music and possibly even jam with friends," he said.

Other winning entries in the Google challenge include geographical applications for finding cabs and going shopping, cooking and car pooling apps and a racing challenge that lets you pit yourself against others following a similar workout pattern or location.

But while the fruits of the developer challenge should guarantee Google some interesting applications at launch, competition for developer talent may tighten given Apple's application store for its iPhone users is now up and running, and reportedly generating big returns for developers.

A recent news report in the US verified claims by developers that some iPhone applications have already earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in the few months the store has been open.

Although Google will initially give away its applications for free to users for its US launch next month, a pricing model for some higher value applications is expected to be introduced soon after.

Mr Oldmeadow said Rayfarla would follow the same model in that there will be some parts of it that are free and others that will cost a dollar or two to download.

"The virtual cow bell will always be free, and then some of the games will be expanded beyond what I submitted and may be released in a 'lite' version, which is a common model in the iPhone store," he says.

He also plans to hand over some of the software code to the developer community in the spirit of open source computing.

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