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Summary:

[qi:004] Updated post press conference, read My Take #2: Google (GOOG) has just announced its much talked about Google mobile phone platform, Android, and has announced a large list of partners who are working with the company. The company said it’s worked with T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm […]

[qi:004] Updated post press conference, read My Take #2: Google (GOOG) has just announced its much talked about Google mobile phone platform, Android, and has announced a large list of partners who are working with the company. The company said it’s worked with T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm (QCOM), Motorola (MOT) and others on the development of Android through the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders.

Andy Rubin, who spearheaded the project, writes on the Google blog:

It’s important to recognize that the Open Handset Alliance and Android have the potential to be major changes from the status quo — one which will take patience and much investment by the various players before you’ll see the first benefits. But we feel the potential gains for mobile customers around the world are worth the effort.

The first handsets are likely to be available in the second half of 2008, the company said. Other partners in the alliance include Sprint Nextel (S), Telecom Italia, NTT DoCoMo, Broadcom (BRCM), and a slew of other technology companies.

What is Android? A fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. It will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products. Next week, the Alliance will release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.

Who is missing? Quite a few large carriers, including Vodafone (VOD), Orange, SK Telecom, AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ). Nokia (NOK), Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson are among the handset makers not part of this alliance.

My Take: This is one massive PR move, with nothing to show for it right now, and it seems like there are other unknown reasons (Facebook ad platform launch perhaps) for the motivation here. No phones till second half of 2008 — in our ADD culture that is a lifetime. The partners — with the exception of HTC and T-Mobile — are companies who are, in cricketing parlance, on the backfoot. Motorola, for instance is not exactly a bastion of handset excellence. Sprint — we know how well they are doing.

MyTake #2: Following the press call, I actually have more questions than answers. They completely dodged my question about how does it reconcile with other mobile linux efforts which are backed by none other than partners like Motorola. Andy Rubin replied that all the software is available for the developers in a week, which is non-answer if there is any. Funny – no phones till second half of 2008 and they want developers to shift their attention from iPhone, Symbian, other Mobile Linux and Microsoft Windows Mobile. Even more convinced that this is a PR move. Not clear how this helps Google from a fiscal sense and its business implications for the company. Oh well, time to hound their press department.

What Others Say:

Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting: Google definitely assembled an impressive list of partners for this initiative. On a fundamental level, it still remains to be seen if this move is going to be transform the industry. Of course, everyone wants to be seen supporting openness, proof will be in the implementation and the business models that support this vision, otherwise this is just yet another initiative.

The initiative does help lower the cost of the handset due to cheap licenses for the stack and if this proves successful, some device manufacturers might give up their own efforts to minimize cost and focus more on hardware features that integrate well with Android. This is more an answer to Microsoft than to the carrier fragmentation Google has talked about. Is this going to be a successful Trojan horse strategy for Google remains to be seen.

Forrester Research wireless analyst Charles Golvin: The impact is broad across all players in the mobile environment, driving innovative developers to craft new applications that leverage both the mobile networks and the Internet, and helping to change the way consumers behave when on the go. Google is far from the only beneficiary, as competitors like Yahoo (YHOO) and even Microsoft (MSFT) stand to benefit should they embrace this approach; the impact will build slowly over time as initially the devices using this platform will form a very small percentage of the market.


  1. Sprint and T-Mobile?

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  2. survey: how many ads would you be willing to see on your phone in return for lower access fees (and overall plan charges)?

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  3. Am I the only one who feels utterly cheated by the media hype and abysmally disappointed by the ‘grand’ gPhone plans as unveiled today? I see mostly NO underlying financial impact to Google and fail to understand the hype, the euphoria, the media frenzy.

    Yes, GOOG’s surely in a bubble.

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  4. Joe Shmoe,

    I agree with you – the grand gPhone isn’t ready and won’t be ready till 2008. What ever is the first thing that comes to mind. I am seriously disappointed and i think this is a spin move.

    Anyway will keep you posted on results of my digging around…

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  5. i think this alliance makes much sense for everyone involved . Nokia has already declared its intentions of becoming a service company . google reached there first .

    What interest me more is the similarity between two recent platform launch [ Facebook's Platform and Google's Mobile Platform ] . both claim to provide a level playing field for applications . that means Google’s App will enjoy same benefits,access or privilege as of any other app.

    Sometime its hard to resist the temptation .We have seen how similar claims were false in Hidden API case of Microsoft .

    These hidden API made Micorsoft Apps more responsive than competing apps . it will be interesting to see if Facebook and Google will resist using this for their advantage .

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  6. “Nuance joined the Open Handset Alliance with other industry leaders to grow the entire mobile ecosystem,” said Steve Chambers, president, mobile and consumer services division, Nuance Communications. “We’re committed to apply our strength and leadership in voice-based search and messaging to move the market forward. By packaging and optimizing embedded speech technology components for open source distribution, we’ve given developers the opportunity to access speech solutions through open APIs using the Android platform and to easily upgrade to new, more advanced speech features as well. We believe deep collaboration with members of the Alliance will grow our core mobile business and fuel the proliferation of speech-enabled applications worldwide.”

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  7. Nuance, please don’t put PR messages in the comments for this is for conversation, not hyping your product. There is a form which you can use to send your press release and if deemed useful i will include it in the post. i hate to be this harsh, you do this one more time, and i am going to have to block you.

    you are ruining the fidelity of conversation here with your PR messages

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  8. I don’t think this will amount to much. The barriers to entry are very high. Look at how many years and billions Microsoft has invested in Windows Mobile. I think Google is underestimating the difficulty of penetrating this market. It is a technical nightmare because of the proliferation of devices. It is an economic nightmare because of the inefficient channel and conflicting interests of vendors, carriers, etc. Kudos to them for trying, but unless they’re committed for 5-10 years, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of results.

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  9. [...] And there is certainly a concern, as Om Malik notes, that some of the company’s partners are less than stellar (yes, I’m looking at you, Motorola). But I think the quest for openness has to be supported [...]

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  10. barriers entry can be broken through quickly with brand indentity/loyalty….shoot like at what Apple did with their first entry in the mobile market. I predict they will succeed quite well quickly as long as their OS is as robust as advertised

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