What do you want your cell phone to be able to do? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Hal Abelson put that question to about 20 computer-science students this semester when he gave them one assignment: Design a software program for cell phones that use Google Inc.'s upcoming Android mobile operating system.


In the process, Abelson's students revealed the power of an open system like Android to shake up the mobile-phone industry, where wireless companies are being pressured to loosen the control they have maintained over what devices do. If the brainstorms of these MIT students are an indication, phones soon...

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