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"I don't know but I've been told. That little green guy's getting mighty bold". You might hear this next time a squad of marines come jogging by. This where the difference between open and closed systems really matters. In an announcement made on the US Army's blog it turns out their new Joint-battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) Handheld is to be based on Android. This follows discussions last year when they mulled over all the platforms and issued a request for apps. It's been often said an Android device is much more than a phone and has capabilities beyond PC's of just a few years ago. And as if this announcement isn't ususual enough, they also plan to release an SDK! That's right - the US Army is building its own Apps store on a customised Android platform.

Private SDK

The reason the US Army wants to release its own SDK is sound - it wants to guarantee all the apps work together, from their look and feel to their storage and inter-app communication protocols. "Using the Mobile/Handheld CE Product Developers Kit, we're going to allow the third-party developers to actually develop capabilities that aren't stovepiped," said JBC-P product manager Lt. Col. Mark Daniels. He continued, "That's going to allow us to be interoperable across the entire family of systems of JBC-P, which would include the platforms, the aviation, the logistics community, the tanks, the Bradleys, the handhelds."

Ice Cream Doodle

 

The US Army expects the JCB-P to be battle ready by 2013. Android was chosen because of its openness and the fact it isn't tied into any particular hardware. In fact no hardware has been specified yet, but its clear some kind of ruggedised form factor is going to be needed. Had they chosen a closed system, such as the iPhone, they would have been not only dependent on a single source for software updates but also at the mercy of any hardware defects. You can't have a soldier under fire wasting time trying to figure out the right way to hold his handset. 

What kind of apps would the US army use?

  • Marking enemy locations on a map for all the other handsets to see.
  • Battlefield video calls to medics back at base.
  • Realtime image zooming from satellite views.
  • Voice translation.
  • Hotspotting artillery targets.

If you've any other ideas, the SDK is expected to be released in July ;-)