FOSDEM 2010: OpenIntents Addresses Dependency Management

Feb 08, 2010

Under the motto "Reuse components, don't reinvent the wheel," Friedger Mueffke, founder of OpenIntents, described his project and its next steps. Using so-called intents, Android apps can provide services to other apps.

The "intents" concept in the Android mobile platform help apps work together. The CALCULATOR intent, for example, launches a calculator and returns the final calculated value to the user. Google has already provided a series of intents on their Developer webpage. However, every app developer can develop their own intents.

Friedger Mueffke has been working since 2007 on an open version of Android intents. In 2009 he formed the OpenIntents UG firm with two of his coworkers, with him as CEO.

He sees the danger that the decentralized and nonstandard process might lead to the same intents under varying names or different ones going by the same name. The conflict could create incompatible intents on a platform or even nonworking apps because they expect different behavior. If Android already has a certain intent in use under a particular name, it will ignore any like-named additions to it. Thus the OpenIntents project has been working since 2007 on getting interfaces and protocols between Android apps documented and registered from a centralized location.

The project page lists Android apps already implementing intents. For instance, there is an app that shows all intents that a mobile phone is currently using. This is where the next step comes in: a dependency manager. OpenIntent so far has no dependency management software in place, said Mueffke, so he invited developers to write it.

In his FOSDEM talk, the Java developer emphasized the advantages of Android and how its modularity encourages interoperability. Outside his talk a few developers asked him why Google wasn't supporting the project more. Specifically, what would the company behind Android have against someone independently maintaining an intent database and thereby furthering its standardization? Suggested a Belgian developer, "There are two kinds of people at Google. The Android developers would just as soon open up their project, but on another level, no one quite knows how to deal with an open development project."

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