Rich Miner, Google’s Group Manager for Mobile Platforms, says no one party should control the future of the mobile platform. Period. With two decades of mobile experience under his belt, including co-founding Android, Google’s mobile platform, Miner should know. At his previous job at carrier Orange he saw, firsthand, the dysfunctional carrier approach to developing and launching mobile applications on an endless amount of incompatible handsets — a bad environment for cell phone users and for a developer looking to build compelling mobile applications.
But good news, Miner said at the Mobilize event during his afternoon keynote, we are in a time of significant change. What a difference even a year makes, he noted, pointing out the excitement over the iPhone, Google’s work with Android and even early moves by phone carriers. The whole movement is being spurred by better devices, always on wireless broadband, better input functions, mobile browsers based on webkit, and the companies who know software — Google, Apple, Microsoft — taking the charge.
There is an increasing amount of openness across platforms, wireless spectrum, and applications distribution that is making the mobile world better for both developers and consumers, Miner said. Verizon (which has been synonymous with closed networks) actually has a VP of Openness, he pointed out.
Miner, once pessimistic in his carrier days, is now optimistic: Once things start to open up, you don’t move back from that, he said. And the shift means more choices for consumers and areas of innovation for entrepreneurs that will ultimately create the mobile internet, which has previously been elusive.
To Google, mobile is very important. The search engine giant is looking to organize the world’s information and with 3 billion mobile phone users — compared to 850 million PC users — so the mobile is crucial as the future of computing.
And what’s the biggest takeaway from the Internet revolution and computing for the mobile phone? “No one party should control the platform,” Miner firmly stated. Google’s Android rests on an open platform and alliance between semiconcdutor companies, handset makers and developers. Android is based on Linux — though with a very sophisticated software stack. Miner thinks universities and OEMs will adopt Android, and says it’s all open source under Apache 2.0. He even noted that if Yahoo wanted to build great mobile apps on it, there is nothing we can do to restrict them. Maybe that’s a “good challenge for them.”
Miner closed by noting that, a few years ago, handset makers and carriers were controlling the mobile environment, but now companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google — people who know software and software developers — are leading the way. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for carriers, but their business models will have to change. Ultimately carriers need to realize the mobile web is like the Internet, and the future is about the long tail. The future is small amounts of micropayments, adding value for specialized groups. This is the future of the mobile Internet and it is here.