Developing for the Android
This is a brief overview - much more information is available at the Android Developers website.
Android applications are written in Java and run in a Java-like VM (the Dalvik VM) on the phone. The Android framework for app development includes a set of core libraries that provides most of the functionality available in the Java core libraries. Work has been done to support other languages on the platform (e.g., Ruby, Scala) but it's not clear whether these will ever be useful for writing applications as such.
The Android platform code itself is open source. The Dalvik VM relies on the Linux kernel and C/C++ libraries for underlying functionality. Android devices currently use ARM processors but may expand to others.
The Android Developers site provides the Android SDK as a free download. The SDK provides the Android framework libraries to develop against, an emulator for trying out apps under development, and useful dev tools.
There is also a useful Eclipse plugin that aids with developing an Android app, deploying it to the emulator, and debugging it as it runs. You do not have to use Eclipse to do Android development, but with the plugin it's the simplest path to start with.
What you need to get going
Everything is free of charge except the computer and (possibly) OS.
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