5 Open Questions About the Google Phone aka Android

38 Comments

OK, so the Google Phone is not really a phone, but instead a software stack that allows people to do cool things such as build applications and power devices that have never before been imagined. Yes, it also cleans dorm rooms and finds dates. Following the press conference call, however, here are five points about Android that remain…unclear.

1. Google (GOOG) says it’s open source, letting you download it and do whatever — except that carriers can create their own locked-down versions of the software with Android. That doesn’t seem very open to me.

2. Google says it is happy to share revenues from advertising with the carriers. Which is good news for the carriers, but if you are a Google shareholder, you want to know how much is going to be kicked back to the carriers, and if this will have a material impact on Google’s financials.

3. The first Android device won’t hit the market till the second half of 2008, and that, too, from one handset maker, HTC. Now as a developer, why would you opt for this platform when you have other options? (Apparently the browser inside the device will support desktop browser-compatible apps, which is a good thing.)

4. None of the handset partners are betting the farm on Android, but are instead hedging their bets. HTC will continue to do Windows Mobile (MSFT), an OS that makes them a lot of money. (A little arm-twisting from Redmond can go a long way). Motorola (MOT), on the other hand, is a founding member of LiMo Foundation, a rival group that has the backing of carriers looking to Linux Mobile as an OS option. So which effort are they going to put their resources towards?

5. With the exception of admitting that it is Linux-based and can work with Qwerty, non-Qwerty and different types of screen sizes, no real details are available on the tech specs of Android. For that we’ll have to wait. Andy Rubin did point out that it will need a 200-MHz ARM processor at the very least, so for some time it is going to be a smartphone-focused OS environment.

Full conference call transcript @ Engadget.

38 Comments

Grem

I’m afraid that Google forgot about mobile games industry – afer half year there are just a few games on Android Market.

android forum

Let us just wait for sometime to get these details. I am sure people in Nokia, Samsung and others are taking this far more seriously. This is just the first day guys…!!!! Om, take a breather or a beer :)

Android Mobile

After all the excitement about the Android platform, a community for Android developers has been set up called http://www.androiddeveloper.com which is a central hub where developers can discuss and learn about the Android platform.

A different site called http://www.androidmobileforum.com has also been set up for everyone to discuss anything about Android mobile.

It looks like theres going to be a lot of talk before we even get the first Android mobile devices in late 2008.

San

Google should just stick to web-search technology. I’m pissed about the fact that, they’re distracting HTC from contributing to the WiMo platform. And i cant believe HTC is so retarded to jump and join hands with Google on their new “DREAM” (well, this is another topic of debate. For startes, a damn cheesy name….sounds like it came out of one of his overly long crapping sessions in a public restrooms).

Look at HTC, they still havent rolled a successor for the Universal, instead they’re @#$^ing dreaming i guess!

Sad monkeys, loose focus….a pity. I guess Peter Chou is more after cashing in more bucks, purely business/commercial driven and usually greed leads to lack in business focus, dilution in quality, drop in loyalty of customers, and thereby their downfall.

end of rant
San

b phillips

For me all of the authors seem to miss the point.
Win mobile sucks, apple is closed, and so far, only one form factor, and as a ‘gizmo’ it is short of the current mark [by gps, radio speed, camera, applications that do things.
Nokia has alot covered, but seems to be leaving lots of gaps in their gears use profile.
I just got my first phone that is more than just a phone. I have integrated it as a tool into all of my day, and frankly as a phone it sucks, win mobile is a pig of non usability. But because of some reverse engineered generosity I have been able to install HTC’s interface additions to winmobile and I have a usable device because of that. [that is why HTC wants to work with google]
Google has a web-based suite of web applications that work, they are lean and in many instances they deliver a good user experience. Google Maps mobile is in many ways more functional for me, more often, than Tomtom gps software, and it’s free.
Add into that the community creating apps for everything one can think of.
And at the heart of this an os that might have things like cut/copy/paste, and other things mysteriously lame or missing from winmobile….
As a person who has use for these things now that they can do so much for my life, I look forward to a very complete device to be more possible. I have a 2 year contract to att for my new Tilt… so I can wait, but how great would it be if you could just update your current gear to a more flexible/capable software setup?
For that I will toss in my good will and good wishes to the android project.

Also, I bet they have a sweet handset in operation somewhere…

Things I use my phone for. GPS, Navigation, exploration, sport driving in far away remote places, making images with the camera, from snaps to art pieces, writing text, editing the employee schedule, painting/drawing a nearly photoshop level piece of software], email, internet use [opera mini], music, video, file transport, calendar, weather, alarm clock, stopwatch/timer, audio recorder, skype, instant messaging, work notes, calculator, internet radio and ah, er, a phone. So for me, that is the bar to raise.

cheers.

Seppo

Sp far I’m not impressed – it’s going to take more than yet another Linux distribution, Java VM and browser to bring enlightenment to the medieval mobile telecomms industry.

Kosso

Also, don’t forget that now Moto owns 50% of Symbian UIQ (along with Sony Ericsson – not in the alliance) which is a great move, as UIQ is an awesome mobile OS. Always has been.

Notably, Nokia is not part of “The Alliance” – Symbian Series 60 (on most Nokia phones) is also great and about to get better with touchScreen support.

Rick

Also, this isn’t a technical battle that is being waged. It’s a battle with the carriers. Nothing new here!

Rick

Kevin, you make a good point. Google has become an inhibitor, rather than an innovator.

This just stinks somehow. I smell something. Google has lost it.

Maybe they’ll force Apple to keep prices low. I’d rather have an iPhone than an adPhone.

Bernard Moon

Om,

I highly doubt this was to counter Facebook’s recent announcement. I don’t think Google’s team is that second rate. Android is a big vision that has been in the works for a while, so let’s just wait and see what develops over the year.

jasonbrummels

Open Source, at least in my limited experience with the Apache license, does not mean that derivative works can not be “locked”. Google itself does not intend on locking it, but if carriers do, that is their decision. Considering the basis is open though, it would be hard for me to believe that this would work extremely well for them, and would be counter to the main benefits behind a platform which is essentially standardized in order to spur developers. In light of the fact that the iPhone (unix based) can be hacked beyond any locking, geeks worth their *nix salt (not me!) will have no more issue with the “security” of a linux based Android OS phone. Thanks to Google for at least making some steps to challenge the current inadequacies (the iPhone is quite impressive though in my opinion, perhaps just hobbled {for us, certainly not for AAPL profits!} – by the Cingular exclusivity.) of the mobile market.

Kevin Walsh

Several decades ago, whenever they were confronted with an unexpected market shift, IBM was able to freeze markets by announcing some new technology. It didn’t matter whether or not IBM actually followed through; the announcement itself was sufficient to kill upstarts or buy time for its own developments. About a decade ago, Microsoft, found it was able to do the same thing.

However, about the time both companies realized how effective this tactic had been, it stopped working. They lost the clout necessary to actually freeze markets.

In the space of one week, Google has made two announcements (OpenSocial and Android) vaguely reminiscent of the days when IBM and Microsoft were able to halt markets with a press release.

No doubt Google would beg to differ (as did IBM and Microsoft back in their hay days), but could this portend the beginning of the end (or, at least, the end of the beginning) for Google?

Danny Sullivan

1: As others have commented, that’s how open source works. There are customized versions of Firefox. It’s open to do whatever you want with it, as opposed to being told here’s the software but you must carry somethings (having said that, it may be that it is impossible to cut out some things in the software like basic support for various IM platforms. Remains to be seen).

2: Then Google shareholders want to know the same for any deal Google cuts for ad distribution. Right now, they tend to get this in the aggregate — how much Google pays for distribution overall. Sometimes partners tell you what a deal is worth (like IAC getting 3.5+ billion in its recent deal extension).

3: Google already has apps for other platforms (Gmail for Blackberry; support on the iPhone; Google Maps for Windows Mobile). It’s not like they are abandoning other platforms, but why do it more with this? Easy — they hope it will build a groundswell of support and that they’ll have greater marketshare and control by being a driving force.

4: I suppose they’ll support whatever they think gets take up. Will people be going into stores saying they want a Gphone (which is going to come, regardless of what Google won’t say). You betcha.

5: Yeah, I wanted tech specs at first, but then think what are the tech specs for Windows Mobile? You’ve got non-touchscreen and 200×200, touchscreen and 200×320, fast processors, slower ones. In the end, it’s not going to matter that much other than really screensize. Will it do something supercool and dazzling with a touchscreen like the iPhone? That’s been about the only mobile twist recently.

NotSteve

@1
Google (GOOG) says it’s open source, letting you download it and do whatever — except that carriers can create their own locked-down versions of the software with Android. That doesn’t seem very open to me.

Ha-ha! If that’s not open, what is? If the carrier sells a “closed” device, you can go in the first shop across the street and buy a new one! Now if you are living in a tough country, where the network operator is selling limited set of devices, and don’t allow 3rd party devices – you re in difficult position, but if I were you, I would switch my network operator immediately!

David Jacobs

It sounds like you’re determined to not like this Om; not sure why.

It is open source and based on the Apache license. Because of open competition, it’s likely that a locked down phone will fail in the market.

Hardware vendors are not betting the farm on this because they’re smart. No one ever said this was the second coming of the phone industry; actually, Apple said that :)

People said Apple couldn’t enter the phone market because they had no experience and it was far to developed. How could they compete against the likes of Nokia? They’re doing pretty well so far. Don’t count Google out. This is a good play for them and they have the muscle to make it work.

Sachin Kotwani

The True Value of Google’s Mobile OS:
Google finally announced it is entering the world of mobile devices by creating an Open Source operating system. The Google OS is based primarily on two other open standards: Linux and Sun’s Java. The search giant has agreed to provide the OS to handset manufacturers free of cost.
So how will Google benefit from this? While the obvious answer is advertising it is not clear how accepting users will be to ads in something as personal as a mobile phone. While this is certainly a market to look into, Google can potentially benefit in a great way by learning more from users. All data traveling through the Google OS would be fair game for the Mountain View company to get to know the consumer better. This information can in turn be used increase the effectiveness of targeted advertising regardless of the ultimate method of the delivery. In the end, it’s all about information.

http://skotwani.blogspot.com/2007/11/true-value-of-googles-mobile-os.html

techmine

Let us just wait for sometime to get these details. I am sure people in Nokia, Samsung and others are taking this far more seriously. This is just the first day guys…!!!! Om, take a breather or a beer :)

Unnikrishnan

No idea why google is re-inventing the wheel than joining Nokia in Maemo. Nokia is doing Open source tablets from 2005 and they already created a good development community.

check http://maemo.org go get the taste of what nokia is doing.

Tim Meyer

A critical element is how is DRM implemented. After many years we still have Forward Lock or some form of Plays For Sure or a custom token scheme on Sprint. Even the iPhone uses Fairplay. It will be impressive indeed if a univeral DRM can be created.

Peter Kasting

Re: 1.
This is how many open-source licenses (not the GPL, notably) work: you are free to do anything with the code, including use it in non-free ways. I personally consider this to be much more free than a GPL style “you’re free to do whatever you want with the code as long as it’s all open too” license.

Also, 5. is not a question.

Zig

A far as #3 goes…why go with this platform when others are available? The same reason carriers were drooling to get in on the iPhone. Google has such a massive following of fanboys and fangirls that the first handset built for this platform is going to get a lot of early adopters rushing to buy it.

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