Thursday, November 8

gPhone anyone?

Finally, some tangible news about the gPhone, or "Google phone"!

It turns out there isn’t going to be a physical device at all, but rather a heavy-weight alliance (the open handset alliance ) who are getting together to create an open source platform for mobile devices.

Loads of big names are involved: Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, T-mobile, Intel….

Notable absences: Nokia and Vodafone

The platform is currently called "Android", and if you have ever tried developing software for phones, you will love all the promises that seem custom-made to make battle-weary J2ME and Symbian developers smile once again:

Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to phone's capabilities

Android is built on the open Linux Kernel

With Android, a developer could build an application that enables users to view the location of their friends and be alerted when they are in the vicinity giving them a chance to connect.

which means I really really can use the phone features

There will be a publicly accessible repository, similar to how the Linux kernel is managed.

which means I can un-install those default apps I don't want

To find out more, look at the Official Google Blog: Where's my Gphone?

Great news all round. Now, lets hold our m-breaths to see if it really can offer what it claims, and if those phone manufacturers really do deliver.

ps: thanks to Bob and Juan who got me onto this

1 comment:

flow said...

Ah yes, the much-discussed "gOS" for mobile devices.

I agree with the excitement about mobile development possibilities, not least because so far everything Google has touched was done pretty well technically. So Android may well be a great platform. We don't know much about it yet though. I'm going to the Future of Mobile day next week, and apparently a gentleman from Google will announce some more details there.

As Tom points out, it's hard to see how adding a new platform helps reduce fragmentation of the mobile ecosystem. There are already too many platforms and that makes development a nightmare, as we all know.

Also, you mention the missing members of the so-called 'Open Handset Alliance'. Add SonyEricsson (easily second placed in handset sales, at least in the UK), Adobe (there is a Flash player for Linux, so come on!), and plenty of others. I can't help thinking that some of the members just want to be associated with the Google brand. Motorola have no less than 3 diferent OSs on their phones, Symbian being one of them. And they're doing very badly at the moment, so cynics could say they just want a bit of the Google 'shine'.

Of course, 'open' doesn't really mean that either. It's free for the manufacturers, but the source is Google's, so they can still decide to do whatever they want with the OS (ie use the leverage for their core business, which is ads).

The first handsets with that OS will ship end of next year. That's a long time, plus the usual eternity until new devices propagate into the pockets of your average users. Who knows what the mobile landscape will look like by then.

Sorry if I sound negative, and it could well be a step in the right direction, but I'm starting to distrust Google the more powerful they get. If I was Microsoft I'd be very worried though. HTC supporting this OS could mean the death of Windows Mobile smartphones.


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