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Google Hands Out Cellphones, Hoping Students Will Build Better Apps

Google has donated cellphones to 11 colleges and universities for use in introductory computer-science courses this fall, hoping that students will build some interesting applications for the company’s cellphone software.

Each college has received 20 HTC phones loaded with Google’s Android operating system, which the company says allows students with no programming experience to create applications for sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The colleges getting the phones are Ball State University, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Indiana University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mills College, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Michigan, the University of San Francisco, and Wellesley College.

The program between Google and the colleges kicks off as cellphone companies prepare to release several new phones that run Google’s Android operating system. Consumers in the United States can buy only two models of phones that run Android, but Google expects 18 to be on the market worldwide by the end of the year.

P. Takis Metaxas, a computer-science professor at Wellesley College who will teach a class using the phones starting next week, said a student who doesn’t know how to program can learn how to make applications on the Android software. Most of the students signed up for his class are freshmen, he said.

A spokeswoman for Google called the collaboration with the colleges an “experiment” and said it could be expanded to other schools in the future if it proves successful.

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