in Applications, Innovation, Mobile Phones

Google, It's A Platform Not A Mobile Phone

20071107android.gifThere have been speculations around for months and at the end of day it is not a phone, it is a platform named Android.

Lot of interesting things about this.

First of all I would say this not really nothing completely revolutionary for the mobile industry. Just checking my poor memory make me think about LiMo, OpenMoko, Ubuntu Mobile, SavaJe and others.

The first different thing here are the number of companies taking part to this initiative (34 according to the last count) and the quality of them. (HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Qualcom, Telecom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and so on).

I think that this is also one of the big problems that Google will need to sort out. Having on board these kind of companies and in such a big number may be painful and will, at least, take a lot of resources. We will see in the future what will happen on this side. Anyway I am quite surprised about some names missing on the list (guess who…)

If we look at the architecture of what the platform should be we find that it will have a Linux kernel and will make use of Java for front end application development. Again, nothing really new. The guys at SavaJe were doing this in a spectacular way ages before this came to light.

Two considerations. I think that the platform needed to run this kind of stuff will not be cheap in term of hardware resources and it will probably will need two processor for baseband and applications. This will make the price of the hardware not really cheap. I am not sure about this and I have recently seen chipsets growing in processing power so this will need to be verified.

The Open Handset Alliance states that the product will be released under an Apache license. This is quite interesting even if I presume that the linux kernel will need to stick with GPL because of its roots. The choice of this license will allow third party companies to develop proprietary features and components without the obligation to share the derivative work. This is one of the big differences between GPL and Apache licenses.

Probably this was the only license available to convince big companies to develop on the platform since they will not be forced to disclose their efforts to the community.

On November 12th and SDK will be released. It will be very interesting to see what will be in there.

When will products will be available with this platform? This is a difficult question to answer but given the assumption that handset manufacture were already working with the platform in the last few months we may see some products hitting the market in Q3/Q4 2008.

There are also some interesting points in the Android description:

All applications are created equal
Android does not differentiate between the phone’s core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone’s capabilities providing users with a broad spectrum of applications and services. With devices built on the Android Platform, users will be able to fully tailor the phone to their interests. They can swap out the phone’s homescreen, the style of the dialer, or any of the applications. They can even instruct their phones to use their favorite photo viewing application to handle the viewing of all photos.

This is one of the most important things of the platforms and will probably lead to innovative User Interfaces, applications and services. This is were today mobile phone fails today. The ability to choose which application will be used for each task on the phone.

In some way a common platform will lower the big issue of device fragmentation. Developers will be able to develop their applications and services without worrying about the availability of features on each single platform. Well, I think they will have to worry form something similar but the core will be the same. This is a big relief for mobile applications developers.

Is the market ready for this? Definitely yes. I have read yesterday that Symbian shipped 20.4 millions of Symbian equipped smartphones in Q3/2007 with a 56% increase year over year. Side comment: it is quite interesting to note the fact that the average royalty per unit went down from 5.2 USD to USD 4.8 in the same period.

I do not have yet any data on the numbers of Microsoft Windows Mobile but I assume the same trend here. PalmOS is slight decreasing in popularity and there are no other competitors in the market. We definitely need another player in this market.

Why do I blog this? Finally it seems that something is changing in the mobile world. It started from Apple with their iPhone, now Google is at the door, Nokia bought NavTeq, launched OVI and a music store. This is only the beginning.

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  • broad.cast November 8, 2007