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Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. The Android SDK provides the tools and APIs necessary to begin developing applications on the Android platform using the Java programming language.
By providing an open development platform, Android offers developers the ability to build extremely rich and innovative applications. Developers are free to take advantage of the device hardware, access location information, run background services, set alarms, add notifications to the status bar, and much, much more.
Developers have full access to the same framework APIs used by the core applications. The application architecture is designed to simplify the reuse of components; any application can publish its capabilities and any other application may then make use of those capabilities (subject to security constraints enforced by the framework). This same mechanism allows components to be replaced by the user.
Android includes a set of core libraries that provides most of the functionality available in the core libraries of the Java programming language.
Every Android application runs in its own process, with its own instance of the Dalvik virtual machine. Dalvik has been written so that a device can run multiple VMs efficiently. The Dalvik VM executes files in the Dalvik Executable (.dex) format which is optimized for minimal memory footprint. The VM is register-based, and runs classes compiled by a Java language compiler that have been transformed into the .dex format by the included "dx" tool.
The Dalvik VM relies on the Linux kernel for underlying functionality such as threading and low-level memory management.
Android applications are written in the Java programming language. The Android SDK tools compile the code—along with any data and resource files—into an Android package, an archive file with an .apk suffix. All the code in a single .apk file is considered to be one application and is the file that Android-powered devices use to install the application.
Once installed on a device, each Android application lives in its own security sandbox:
The Android operating system is a multi-user Linux system in which each application is a different user.
By default, the system assigns each application a unique Linux user ID (the ID is used only by the system and is unknown to the application). The system sets permissions for all the files in an application so that only the user ID assigned to that application can access them.
Each process has its own virtual machine (VM), so an application's code runs in isolation from other applications.
By default, every application runs in its own Linux process. Android starts the process when any of the application's components need to be executed, then shuts down the process when it's no longer needed or when the system must recover memory for other applications.
In this way, the Android system implements the principle of least privilege. That is, each application, by default, has access only to the components that it requires to do its work and no more. This creates a very secure environment in which an application cannot access parts of the system for which it is not given permission.