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Android developers get their Oprah moment

Google gives away 4,000 Android handsets Wednesday, delighting developers at Google I/O who thought they were merely getting an Android 2.0 preview.

SAN FRANCISCO--Google provided a few glimpses of what will be possible with Android 2.0 on Wednesday, before it promptly made every developer in attendance at Google I/O forget those details with a good old-fashioned giveaway.

Calling it his "Oprah moment," Google's Vic Gundotra received the biggest applause dedicated to any moment of the Google I/O conference here so far when he announced that everyone in attendance would be getting a free unlocked Android handset. Lost in the moment were the announcements of a few APIs (application programming interfaces) that will appear in Android 2.0, code-named Donut.

For example, developers will be able to build Android applications based on a search API that lets a user search the Web and the device for content and applications, and also lets the user launch applications from the search results, somewhat similar to how Apple plans to enable search with iPhone 3.0. Google is also experimenting with a feature that would let Android 2.0 users skip ahead in a playlist, for example, by drawing the first letter of the song they wish to hear on the screen of the device.

Another API will allow developers to build applications using a text-to-speech engine that translates a sentence typed into a field and plays it back over the phone's speaker.

In addition, Google announced the second round of the Android Developer Challenge. Android users will have the opportunity to vote on applications this time around, with their votes counting toward 45 percent of the total, while the votes of Google's hand-picked judges will count for 55 percent of the total. Judging is expected to be completed in November.