Thursday, January 17, 2008

Google’s Android Arrives: Not Gphone But An Open Source Mobile Phone Platform

After literally years of anticipation, rumor, and increasingly aggressive speculation about a Google Phone, Google has formally announced that the Gphone cometh — sort of. Today, the company has gone public with news of an open source mobile operating system called “Android” named after the company Google acquired in 2005. Backing Android is the Open Handset Alliance, a group of over 30 companies all pledging to contribute to the project. Below, a detailed, comprehensive look based on a pre-briefing with Google and from today’s news conference.Back in 2005, Google quietly acquired a little-known company named Android, which was founded by Andy Rubin, now Google’s director of mobile products. Rubin was previously at WebTV and the former CEO of Danger, which developed the Danger platform and Sidekick mobile device (used by T-Mobile).Android had barely gotten off the ground and was looking for investors when Google bought the company and brought Rubin and his team in house. (There’s an interesting profile of Rubin in yesterday’s New York Times) The company became a Google project, culminating in the mobile platform being announced today.What is Android exactly? Think Windows or Linux or MacOS for mobile phones. Just like computers, mobile phones have an operating system that lets them do various things, from placing phone calls to “smart phones” that can run sophisticated software programs like word processing apps or games.
Android is a new operating system. Developers and programmers can write software for it, plus it will ship with some bundled applications such as a mobile browser and an instant messaging client. In particular, Android is billed as a platform intended to radically simplify the process and reduce the cost of building applications for mobile phones. The SDK — the software development kit allowing programmers to write software for the Android platform — is being made available on November 12.
That’s the developer-facing side of it. The other side is the expectation that these tools will help deliver better user experiences as well. While Android takes its name from a company Google acquired — and while Google is the driving force behind the new platform — Android is being back and built by more than Google. Like the Firefox browser, Android is “open source,” meaning that anyone can use it, modify it, and contribute to the project.In particular, a group of 34 companies (including Google) are currently contributing and overseeing Android. This group — the Open Handset Alliance — is divided into these major categories:

  • Handset Makers (like HTC and LG)

  • Cell Phone Carriers (such as Sprint)

  • Software Companies

  • Semiconductor / Chip Companies (such as Intel)

  • Commercialization Partners

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