“We are not building a GPhone; we are enabling 1,000 people to build a GPhone.”
— Andy Rubin, Google’s director of mobile platforms
Google is announcing their new “open phone” coalition today, for the so-called “Google Phone” (wikipedia). The NY Times and CrunchGear have more.
Google is holding a conference call at noon eastern to unveil the details of its Android mobile operating system. Engadget has live coverage at 9am (Pacific). Joining CEO Eric Schmidt will be other members of the 34-member Open Handset Alliance, reports Engadget. Google’s Press Center and Blog are expected to have official news later.
- Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google and Andy Rubin, Director of Mobile Platforms, Google.
- René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile
- Peter Chou, CEO of HTC.
- Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm
- Ed Zander, Chairman and CEO of Motorola.
Thirty-four companies have formed the Open Handset Alliance (www.openhandsetalliance.com), which aims to develop technologies that will significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services. The Android platform is the first step in this direction — a fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008.
The Android platform 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.
Aplix (www.aplixcorp.com), Ascender Corporation (www.ascendercorp.com), Audience (www.audience.com), Broadcom (www.broadcom.com), China Mobile (www.chinamobile.com), eBay (www.ebay.com), Esmertec (www.esmertec.com), Google (www.google.com), HTC (www.htc.com), Intel (www.intel.com), KDDI (www.kddi.com), LivingImage (www.livingimage.jp), LG (www.lge.com), Marvell (www.marvell.com), Motorola (www.motorola.com), NMS Communications (www.nmscommunications.com), Noser (www.noser.com), NTT DoCoMo, Inc. (www.nttdocomo.com), Nuance (www.nuance.com), Nvidia (www.nvidia.com), PacketVideo (www.packetvideo.com), Qualcomm (www.qualcomm.com), Samsung (www.samsung.com), SiRF (www.sirf.com), SkyPop (www.skypop.com), SONiVOX (www.sonivoxrocks.com), Sprint Nextel (www.sprint.com), Synaptics (www.synaptics.com), TAT – The Astonishing Tribe (www.tat.se), Telecom Italia (www.telecomitalia.com), Telefónica (www.telefonica.es), Texas Instruments (www.ti.com), T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com), Wind River (www.windriver.com).
Sprint will work with Google, says the Wall Street Journal, but T-Mobile will probably go even further: building Google-powered phones with a variety of software and applications.
Is “Android” a Mobile WiMAX play? Perhaps not.
Handset companies that are developing Mobile WiMAX platforms, including Nokia and SK Telecom, are not members of the Open Handset Alliance. Samsung, LG and Motorola are in, but Clearwire and satphone companies were not mentioned. Others opting out (for now) include Sony Ericsson, Vodafone, Orange, Apple, AT&T and Verizon. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the largest operators in the U.S. and together account for about 52 percent of all cell phone subscribers in the country.
Britain’s Symbian, on whose operating system almost three-quarters of the world’s smartphones are based, said Google was not to be underestimated but faced a hard task. Symbian is owned by Nokia (47.9%), Ericsson (15.6%), Sony Ericsson (13.1%), Panasonic (10.5%), Siemens AG (8.4%) and Samsung (4.5%).
But Nokia may still join Google’s alliance, which is seen as rivaling Nokia’s own plans. “It’s not ruled out at all. If we would see this as beneficial, we would think about taking part in it,” Kari Tuutti, a representative for Nokia’s multimedia unit, said Tuesday. “We should never close any doors.”
The new G-system will be based on Linux and overlaid with Java. The finished product, with a reported spring target date for shipment, will favor Google applications and services. Members of the Open Handset Alliance include Mobile Operators and Handset Manufacturers.
A 200MHz ARM 9 processor is the minimum requirement for cell phones, said Andy Rubin, Google director of mobile platforms. It will be flexible, compatible with small or large screens, keyboards and other input methods, including basic English voice commands from Nuance. OpenCore by PacketVideo will allow streaming media embedded in Web pages.
In contrast to smartphone software made by Apple, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Nokia, Palm, Research in Motion and others, Google’s software will be offered freely under “open source” licensing terms, meaning that handset manufacturers will be able to use it at no cost and be free to add new features to differentiate their products.
Andy Rubin, Google’s resident gadget guru, was profiled in the NY Times yesterday. He oversees Google’s software project that the company hopes will transform the smartphone market.
As Google’s “director of mobile platforms,” Mr. Rubin oversees dozens of engineers who are developing the software at the company’s sprawling campus. The software embodies the promise of extending Google’s reach at a time when cellphones allow consumers to increasingly untether themselves from their desktop.
“Instead of making money on software, you have someone who is saying they’re trying to make their money on services,” said Michael Kleeman, a technology strategist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California at San Diego. “The interesting question is whether the carriers will authorize the Google hand-sets on their networks.”
Consumers are using smartphones to find directions, meet their friends and locate nearby stores, restaurants and movie theaters. That simple business and cultural shift has touched off an information-age gold rush, as Google, its search competitors, hand-set makers and cellphone operators all try to stake their claims to the mobile Web.
Just as Microsoft successfully “cut off” Netscape’s air supply by giving away its Explorer Web browser as part of the Windows operating system, Google may shove Windows Mobile aside if the Google Phone is given away to hand-set makers.
And if the strategy works, it will be because a robotics fanatic named Andy Rubin and his team will have successfully developed the smartphone of the future.
The pay-off for Google would be enhanced revenue through targeted advertising. Less clear is how wireless carriers might benefit.