Tiny Computer Development
One of the things about Android is that there are tons of devices out there. Some of them aren't even phones and tablets but offer potential as embedded development platforms.
Yes, some people have tinkered with Arduinos and similar "tinker toys" but with their limitations they just don't fit any real purpose most of us might have. Blink some LEDs, and most of us are done. That doesn't mean they don't have their place but for most of us they're just too limited for any projects we want to work on.
One Android-based product is FXI's Cotton Candy, still in early developer-oriented production. This thing is a "USB stick" form-factor computer. It uses a micro-SD card for storage, has HDMI output, Bluetooth, WiFi, a micro-USB host port to allow direct keyboard/mouse connection, and a USB plug for power input.
You can also plug the "power" plug into a Windows, Mac, etc. machine and not only power it but host it using the PC's keyboard, mouse, and monitor instead of (or in addition to) plugging devices into the CC itself.
Here's the main site: Cotton Candy. There are specs and stuff there as well as links to purchase pages, a forum, etc. it costs $199 USD as far as I can tell, but shipping currently adds $60 (according to forum threads) and then you pay customs duties, etc. Er, maybe next year.
Another option might be Ouya. I'm not sure about many details on this one aside from it being intended as a sort of game console. The product's site is at http://www.ouya.tv/
There must be quite a number of these I haven't found yet. I saw in the CC forums that there is at least one cheaper Chinese product similar to the CC, though I have no info about it aside from a $79 price-point.
Then of course you might get along by going with some cheap 7" Android tablet as a starting point. As tablets these have LCDs built in (or is the computer built into the LCD?) that you might not need in your finished robot, automated weather station, smart pizza oven, etc. Still you can find something to work with for as little as $60 today.
You Mentioned Basic?
Of course this forum site is about writing software more than tinkering with hardware, so we don't want another silly media player or electric picture frame. We want to write some code.
One way "in" might be to get hold of Google's Android SDK and related pieces and parts. That lets you work in Google-flavor Java and I believe there's an NDK (Native Dev Kit) offering a C compiler.
Or you might try to "ease in" by looking at some of the development tools being produced by 3rd parties who were orphaned when Phone 7 killed the popular Windows Mobile platform.
One of these is Basic4Android and it seems to be a lot like VB6 with some quirks more reminiscent of VB.Net. I've noticed that after visiting their site a few times they've dropped some cookies here that result in ad-links at other sites offering a 30% discount on this $49/$99 product (two editions).
There is also another vendor in much the same boat who turned to creating a product called NS BASIC/App Studio.
For all I know these might prove too limited, i.e. strongly phone/tablet oriented and difficult to use for more general development (like that pizza oven project!).
Anybody Out There?
So I'm wondering if anyone here has pioneered any of this yet. It almost looks like you could pick up a cheapie tablet for say $75 and Basic4Android Standard Edition at $34 discounted - and if you already have a PC running XP or later you'd be all set to do some tinkering.