Google: Choose Android, save 20 percent

Phone manufacturers stand to save a fifth on development costs just by going with the free and open source platform, says Android co-founder.

SINGAPORE--Phone makers who adopt Google's Android platform may see a 20 percent drop in manufacturing costs just from saving on software costs, according to Android's co-founder.

Andy Rubin, who is also Google's director of mobile platforms, told the press Monday that software costs represent about 20 percent of a phone's manufacturing costs, so a manufacturer would theoretically save on that by adopting the free and open source Android platform.

Android is Google's upcoming mobile phone platform, which bundles several Google applications together with an operating system, and encourages third party developers to develop applications for it via a software development kit (SDK).

Rubin said tapping a wider pool of developers via independent developers on the Internet helps the platform keep up a faster pace of innovation.

Google last year announced a US$10 million developer competition, and recently shortlisted the top 50 projects after a first round of judging.

Where the traditional "closed" development of a platform would be controlled by the original equipment manufacturer's (OEM's) timeline, Android's open source nature allows for development to continue constantly, Rubin said.

"And these OEMs aren't the best system integrators, because they're on six month [development] cycles," said Rubin, adding that such vendors are on schedules to move onto new phones so they do not place as much emphasis on developing a single platform.

On a recent comment by Symbian's research chief, David Wood, that Android would eventually end up fragmented, Rubin said it's all part of the open source game.

Raising the example of a carrier traditionally having to wait for a closed platform developer to release the next version of its software to "enable" the carrier to offer new services, Rubin said carriers could just hire a developer internally to speed up that process without waiting any longer.

"If that fragmentation is what [Wood] is talking about, that's great--let's do it," said Rubin.

Rubin said this notion of "openness" extends beyond software but also to the other players in the mobile ecosystem. "Times have changed," he said.

"Carriers who lock down phones will not be chosen by consumers because they're locking themselves and their devices out of the innovation loop," said Rubin.

While Rubin declined to speculate on Android's expected uptake, he said he expects it to gain traction first in developed markets before moving to emerging countries.

He said the handsets are expected to come to market at the same time in most geographies, adding that this would likely be by year end. Android is already in its "final stages of testing", and is getting certified by carriers, said Rubin.

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