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.