Google outlines the Open Handset Alliance; Will it succeed?

Google outlines the Open Handset Alliance; Will it succeed?

Summary: Google rolled out its mobile plans Monday in a group it calls the Open Handset Alliance, an effort that encompasses the search giant's Android software and a bevy of partners.Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google, wrote in a post.

TOPICS: Mobility, Android, Google

Google rolled out its mobile plans Monday in a group it calls the Open Handset Alliance, an effort that encompasses the search giant's Android software and a bevy of partners.

Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google, wrote in a post.

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.

Rubin's post (Techmeme) covers most of the news that was already leaked. Also see winners and losers in this alliance and the revenue potential. The Android unveiling left more than a few lingering questions. Among them: Where are the big carriers? Is this just a PR move as Om Malik suggests? Can this alliance be managed?

In the meantime here are the key points, conference call highlights and my takeaways:

Key points: 

  • Android includes an open platform for mobile devices and includes an operating system, user interface and applications. It's a mobile bundle "without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation," wrote Rubin.

  • Android is expected to be platform agnostic. Rubin wrote: "Android will complement, but not replace, our longstanding mobile strategy of developing useful and compelling mobile services and driving adoption of these products through partnerships with handset manufacturers and mobile operators around the world."

  • A software developer kit will be available in the next week. Phones will be shipped in the second half of 2008 with Android software. Regarding this kit, the alliance had the following to say in a statement:

The Android platform will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products. Next week the Alliance will release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.

Key points the conference call:

  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the Open Handset Alliance will be bigger than the Gphone. The goal is cheaper handsets and a better Internet experience.
  • René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile, said the plan is to launch a device based on Android "in the course of 2008." "We see the opportunity to prevent a better than Internet experience on mobile devices," said Obermann, who also talked up social networking and Web 2.0 possibilities. He didn't discuss product plans. You have to wonder if this lineup can succeed with T-Mobile as the sole carrier.
  • Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corp., said the first Android device will come in late 2008.
  • Motorola CEO Ed Zander said the alliance is about open software and "seamless connected services."
  • Handset makers were asked whether they would continue to use other mobile operating system. Chou said Android is an opportunity to innovate more, but the commitment to other operating systems is the same. Zander said Android is an accelerator for open source development. He added that there is a commitment to other operating systems, but seemed to hint that Motorola was going down the open source path.
  • Rubin said Google will advertise via a Web browser as it does today in the mobile space. Rubin said you won't see a completely ad-driven handset "for quite some time." Android will include a robust Web browser, said Rubin.
  • Were Nokia, Apple, RIM and Microsoft asked to be in the alliance? Rubin said each company in the alliance contributed something. It's open to people that want to join and contribute. Reading between the lines it sounds like those aforementioned parties didn't want to contribute technology.
  • How will new services be different than current Google offering? Schmidt said the big difference is that Google won't have to "shoe horn" in an application because there will be a full featured Web browser on the phone in Android.
  • Is Android a soft phone? Rubin said it's premature to view Google's effort as a soft phone.
  • If there were to be a Google Phone, Android will be a fine platform to run it with. Of course, Google isn't preannouncing anything. Sure sounds like Google isn't ruling a Gphone out.
  • Technical specifications due in a week with the SDK. Rubin did acknowledge that Android is Linux based.
  • Schmidt was asked about the iPhone. He said that Android is designed to be used in new ways in the future on devices that haven't been cooked up. "There will be different mobile experiences," he said.
  • How does Android differ from Symbian? Rubin said the big difference is that Android will be open source.
  • Obermann said it's far too early to forecast volume for the Android-based devices.
  • Schmidt and Rubin were asked if Android devices could be locked down. Schmidt said it's possible, but highly unlikely. Ultimately it's the industry's choice.
  • Android architecture will run well on all data networks. Google's interest in the 700 Mhz wireless auction is a separate issue.
  • The role of carriers and the business model. Google said it wants to partner with handset makers and share in the profits. Obermann said there are additional opportunities for revenue for T-Mobile.

My takeaways:

  • Android is betting big on its yet-to-be-seen Web browser to be the big difference maker.
  • The Gphone will happen. Officials danced around the Gphone way too much. Android will be the basis of the Gphone should it launch.
  • The technical specifications next week will give us a lot more color on this initiative.
  • The wireless carrier business model isn't going to go the way of the dinosaur over Android. That said, this alliance would do a lot better with Verizon Wireless on board.
  • Social media is viewed as a big differentiator with this alliance. Schmidt said OpenSocial will run on Android, but the timing of both announcements was coincidental.
  • It's telling that Nokia, Symbian, Apple, RIM and Microsoft aren't on board. Can this alliance succeed without these folks involved?

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google

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  • OSS rules the handset market

    That's the dawning of a new era in software that will spell trouble for proprietary OSes.
    Linux Geek
    • LOL right

      Just like Tident ushered in a new era of chewing and spelled trouble for Juicy Fruit.
    • Buwahahahahaha

      Yeah, it rules, absolutely NOTHING.
      • Well thats a bit of an over statement don't you think - NT

        • It *thrives* on overstatment

          among numerous, mostly not positive things.

          Jack-Booted EULA
    • Right idea, but wrong reason

      The key is Open Development Environment, which, due to it's nature, OSS includes by default. Apple with it's "openish, soon to be, maybe if we let you" environment is hobbled by that same fact. Windows Mobile, well, that's another kettle of fish. You have to shared source the source, then the NDAs get ya, no more development on any other platform because you saw the code, but it is possible. Now, if Windows took a version on CE and truly opened it up to that anyone can modify it any way they want (i.e. turn a CE phone into a GPS enabled remote toaster monitor), it could draw the same developer crowd.

      They key is the openness, which no one really knows. If Google has to hobble it to provide the customary lock in for the service provider, simply another crippled iPhone clone. If it is truly open, it will catch fire.

      I doubt Verizon will allow a wide open phone on their network, they are vehemently cripple all hardware and to a greater extent, Windows only is all they support and care about.

  • I Go With the Least Expensive-Not Glitsiest

    I did not buy an iPhone because I refuse to pay $60 a month for cell phone. Rather, I pay $8 a month with Pay-as-you-go, and use it when I need it. I don't want to be a Borg chained to a headset device, walking about like some mental case talking to himself.
    Give me a sub $10 monthly cost, and you have my attention.
    • You are smart!

      Im surprised most people dont do this. Some of the cheaper networks have poorer coverage but if coverage is available where you want it (your work, your home) you can save a lot of $$.
    • I could not agree more!

      Amen .. brother preach it! That is exactly what I am waiting for... reasonablly priced which means less than $10 per month for at least 1000 hours per month in the USA and Canada.
      Ugota B. Kidding
  • RE: Type Freudian Slip?

    Quoting from the article: ???We see the opportunity to prevent a better than Internet experience on mobile devices???

    Is it "prevent" or "present?" Maybe it was supposed to be "present" but "prevent" is closer to the truth.
    • You beat me to it...

      I chuckled at the same thing, and when I went to post about it, I saw that you already had.

      A big percentage of blog opinion agrees: "open?" we'll believe it when we see the carriers relax their stranglehold.
  • The handset shouldn't matter

    If it's all open source and web based, then shouldn't any platform do? iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian. Shouldn't matter.

    This is another example where Google doen't really a clue what's going to happen. Not saying that in a bad way, just that Google is just trying to launch a mobile OS in a me too way and trying to see if something sticks.

    This is a very crowded market, and to be honest, I think that handheld market is a little over hyped. With hardware advances, we are on the verge of seeing true desktop/laptop class of power phones.

    Why do we need another platform. Wouldn't it be great if your phone was just like your laptop with mobile apps. Then you could dock it and have a full sized keyboard and monitor at work or home.

    These devices are on there way.
    • We do not need another portable desktop

      Security is the primary reason one should never take the easily lost/stolen handheld and make it the repository of critical information - a defacto result of having the portable device be a desktop replacement.

      There is a little talked about trend occuring which is growing in the marketplace. With the easy access to a home/office mega-desktop from just about anywhere, the portable devices become more of a local appliance with the ability to run the biggest programs by simply conecting to the desktop computer over the network. Full address book and email can be synced with the desktop rather than simply stored on the portable.

      By leaving the critical information on the home/office computer, security is not breached when your portable device is lost or stolen. It is security which is pushing laptops into the simple replacable appliance vs. a standalone desktop replacement. IT departments cannot effectively backup up a standalone portable device, but can easily backup a local desktop which has been synced with the the portable device.

      There is a little talked about trend occuring which is growing in the marketplace. With the easy access to a home/office mega-desktop from just about anywhere, the portable devices become more of a local appliance with the ability to run the biggest programs by simply conecting to the desktop computer over the network.

      I find the original Palm concept to be extremely powerful, especially when the sync can be over the internet Add to this full access to the desktop capabilities and I need nothing else on my portable appliance. Most of the time I only need phone, calendar, and contact list on my communication device. Internet is nice, but I need a full screen for the stuff I typically access.

      Finally, the new USB keys are a great way to encrypt stored information. If the contents of the USB key can be synced with a desktop, the key can be lost without losing data or having others gain access to sensitive information.
  • Dose Google event anything anymore.

    First Face Book and now this. It seem Google is spending more time putting widgets into other creation rather than developing their own widgets. Google is becoming a intrusive bureaucracy.
    • Google is Giant Mashup Factory

      Why invent when you can mash together existing stuff. Why develop when you can buy. It is really a smart move, to link monetize someone else's efforts (cell phone carriers, social networks, web sites, discussion groups, images.) Google is mashing up all these internet technologies in order to advertise everywhere.
  • 2 Big Carriers Won't Matter!

    If this phone is truely open source, the the carriers won't matter. You can buy the phone, plug in any SIM card, and you're in business with any carrier. 3rd party re-sellers will have a field day with this one, giving away all kinds of stuff (and probably making more of a profit too!) with as much kick-back as they get from plan sales.
    • Verizon still considering joining

      The WSJ reports Verizon is still considering to join.

      The reseller business is quite tough and they do not get much of a kick-back. But if the carriers are giving them big kick backs, then you can bet that it is based on the requirement that they sell non-OS devices.

      I'm not against open phones but your logic doesnt make sense.
  • Why would any big wireless carrier want/allow it?

    Yea, I am certain that some small hardware manufacture will try it, (there is always one) but you still have to connect to a wireless carrier. Why would those carriers slit their own throat by allowing them on to their networks?

    These carriers make their money selling BUNDLED services and I know of none of the major carriers that do it ala-cart. What in the world would make them want to slaughter their own cash cow?
    • May make their monopolist behaviors more obvious to Gov. regulators -NT

      • What monopoly?

        Ummm, when there are multiple big companies there is no monopoly. Do you understand what a monopoly is?