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Where Will Android Go Next?

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When it comes to its new mobile operating system, Android, Google’s dreams go beyond just mobile phones. Indeed, the company is hoping that the open-source version of the software will eventually find its way into a panoply of devices.

Google (s goog) today announced that the open-source version of its mobile OS is now available for anyone to download and use for their devices — even to improve upon Android itself. Its availability comes a day ahead of the launch of T-Mobile’s G-1 handset. (Read my review.) And it marks the first step towards making Android a ubiquitous platform.

Or at least that’s what Google hopes.

With the availability of Android to the open-source community, consumers will soon start to see more applications like location-based travel tools, games and social networking offerings being made available to them directly; cheaper and faster phones at lower costs; and a better mobile web experience through 3G networks with richer screens.The easy access to the mobile platform will not only allow handset makers to download the code, but to build devices around it. Those not looking to build a device from scratch will be able to take the code and modify it to give their devices more of a unique flavor.

“Now OEMs and ODMs who are interested in building Android-based handsets can do so without our involvement,” Rich Miner, Google’s group manager for mobile platforms, told us earlier today. Some of these equipment makers are going to expand the role of Android beyond handsets.

Over the last few weeks I have learned that numerous companies are tinkering with Android in an attempt to get the OS to power a whole slew of gadgets — everything from set-top boxes to navigation systems to mobile Internet devices to smart picture frames. For instance, Motorola (s mot), a big player in the set-top box business, has designs on building an Android-based set-top box.

Motorola may not be alone. I have also heard from fairly reliable sources that two very large PC makers are experimenting with Android-based Internet devices. And when I asked Miner about the potential directions Android could take, he said he’s had many conversations with equipment makers.

The growing interest in Android, which is built upon the Linux kernel, is perfectly understandable. It’s not just an operating system, but comes with middleware and key applications, making it a complete environment that can be modified for other users. It has a robust web browser (based on WebKit), the ability to handle 2D and 3D graphics, and is able to read all sorts of audio, video and image files. As a result it can be extended into any number of consumer electronic devices that needed a robust software system.

Google is taking Android very seriously, and is working on getting a groundswell built for it. For instance, it has started talking with leading universities – MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard and Carnegie Mellon – to develop teaching programs around the OS, ones in which students would be given lessons in Android UI, for example, or taught about the uses of Android as an embedded environment.

While its potential might not seem that obvious today -– after all, Android is currently available on one device from one carrier -– it’s hard not to get excited about it.

28 Responses to “Where Will Android Go Next?”

  1. If you carefully look at the structure of the Android community you will see that Google is completely and unilaterally in charge. They are the Core team in the open source project that decides everything and they are they only ones who can authorize new projects and project leads, or take the project code into the system. The community has no voice in the governance of the community or in the membership of the Core team.. Google also owns the message boards, and the Open(ha ha) Handset Alliance (wWhich is a closed body with no public membership ability and is controlled by Google). This means issues like schedule, DRM, which API’s to expose etc etc are all completely in the control of Google. I just don’t see how this is open ;-(

  2. YUvamani

    To understand where Android will go next, it would be good to see where Windows CE went. Top hits would be
    1) Set Top Boxes
    2) GPS Devices

    There are reports that WinCE was used in australia in milking machines ! Since Android does what WinCE does and as people think it does it better for cheaper (no ms tax) – Expect Android to go there.

  3. I’m still waiting for my iNandrokia device. The slick GUI of the iPhone, the SDK of the Android and the business mindset and standards compliance of Nokia … iPhone and Android can not be connected over SIP to your corporate PBX, a feature supported by the Nokia E-series can.

  4. Derek, do you have anything else say instead of just “seagulling” the story? I would be happy to see my next car navigation system be based on Android with WiMax connectivity. By this time tomorrow, I should be surfing with Android on a Nokia N810 tablet. Oughta be interesting.

  5. “Imagine how much a restaurant would be willing to pay to have their ad pop up when a user within 3-4 miles searches for Italian?”

    This is one of the reasons why I feel that WiMax will be a success.

  6. First off I learned about a new word from this article, panoply, so thanks for that!

    Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly with you that Google is and will continue to put a lot of resources behind Android. The smartphone/internet enabled device market is blowing up, and Google wants that advertising. Imagine how much a restaurant would be willing to pay to have their ad pop up when a user within 3-4 miles searches for Italian?

    There is definitely going to be a lot of money in this market, and Google is well positioned to get a bunch of it.