Google has given its new open-source Android mobile phone platform a shot in the arm by offering $10m to the developers who build the best Android applications. Google says it hopes to spark innovation with the so-called Android Developer Challenge, announced concurrently with the release of Android. The software development kit is now available for download on the Android site.

The $10m in prizes will be divided into awards of $25,000 to $275,000, and given to developers who can win over Google's panel of judges. "We've built some interesting applications for Android, but the best applications are not here yet because they're going to be written by developers," said Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

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Developers can submit applications between January 2 and March 3. The 50 best will receive $25,000 awards to fund further development. In May 2008, the 10 best will be given $275,000 each, and the next 10 $100,000 each. A second challenge will be launched in the second half of next year after the first handsets built on Android hit the market.

Google is throwing money around by the millions these days to spur research in various fields. In September, the company announced it will give a $20m prize to spacecraft builders who can successfully land a ship on the moon and transmit data back to Earth.

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