Google just officially announced the Open Handset Alliance to create an open platform (to be called Android) for a Linux phone that can run mobile Google apps and others. The 34 partners include T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel, NTT Docomo, China Mobile, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Qualcomm, Intel, and Google itself. No mention of Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, or Nokia (which is pushing its own Ovi development platform). Here is the press release. Writes Andy Rubin, the man behind the Google Phone. :
Despite all of the very interesting speculation over the last few months, we’re not announcing a Gphone. However, we think what we are announcing — the Open Handset Alliance and Android — is more significant and ambitious than a single phone. In fact, through the joint efforts of the members of the Open Handset Alliance, we hope Android will be the foundation for many new phones and will create an entirely new mobile experience for users, with new applications and new capabilities we can’t imagine today
Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications — all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation.
Reports started trickling out last week that Google is ready to announce its Gphone, or rather Gphones. It is more a reference design, than a single phone. Android-based phones will start to come out on the market in the latter half of 2008 (from HTC at minimum). One mobile startup CEO I know says he was contacted on Friday by Google and given the final go-ahead to port his app onto Android, which his company has not even started to work on yet. The software development kit will be available on November 12. Today’s announcement is just that. There is nothing concrete here in terms of products or services, but going mobile represents a major growth opportunity for Google, which wants to bring the Internet (along with search and contextual ads) to your phone.
John Biggs at CrunchGear is liveblogging the conference call, and he is also streaming the audio
Here are my notes from the call:
Google CEO Eric Schmidt notes there are 3 billion mobile users. He says:
“We want to create a whole new experience for mobile users.”
“This will be the first fully-integrated software stack, including an operating system and middleware, being made available under the most liberal open-source license ever given to mobile operators [and handset makers].”
“This is not an announcement of a Gphone. We hope thousands of different phones will be powered by Android. This will make possible all sorts of applications that have never been made available on a mobile device.”
He think s a”lack of a collaborative effort” is what has been keeping back the mobile Web. Android will help developers reduce complexities and costs across different mobile devices.
“Mobile software complexity and cost is increasing, but mobile users want the same apps as they have on the Internet. Android will be able to deliver on this.”
Sergey Brin: “As I look at it I reflect, ten years ago I was sitting at a graduate student cubicle. We were able to build incredible things,. There was a set of tools that allowed us to do that. It was all open technologies. It was based on Linux, GNU, Apache. All those pieces and many more allowed us to do great things and distribute it to the world. That is what we are doing today, to allow people to innovate on today’s mobile devices. Today’s mobile devices are more powerful than those computers I was working on just ten years ago. I cannot wait to see what today’s innovators will build.”
No ad-supported phones, says Andy Rubin in Q&A: “Part of this Android solution is a very robust HTML Web browser, so there is really no difference between browsing on a phone [and on a PC]. Contrary to speculation, you won’t see a completely ad-driven phone on this platform for some time.” But he confirms that this plays into Google’s overall advertising strategy by bringing a more fully functioning Web browser to the handset. Notes that Android will require at minimum the equivalent of a 200 MHz ARM 9 processor. The platform is open source, and that will be its competitive advantage over other mobile platforms.
Schmidt: “The best model is to be open. that is what the Internet has taught us. The test of course is whether the applications and developers emerge. The reason we are announcing now is to make sure developers have time to make available applications that have never been available before but are common on Macs and PCs.”
And not that he is announcing anything, but: “If you were to build Gphone, you would build it on this platform.”
Qs about ability of carriers to lock down devices. Rubin: “When you free something into the open it is up to the industry to do something with it.” (i.e., it is not Google’s problem).
Q: “So if the industry wanted to create completely locked down devices, that would be possible?”
And Rubin: “Yes.”
Schmidt: “While that is possible, it is highly unlikely.” Uh-huh, what planet does he live on?
Q: Any overlap with OpenSocial?
Schmidt: “Google announces products whenever they are ready, and the teams are different. OpenSocial will be a framework that will run extremely well on Android for all the obvious reasons. Developers building interesting social apps will have the benefit of mobility as Android becomes widespread.”