There's a feeling of excitement around today's expected launch of Android, Google's long-anticipated mobile operating system. But when I drove past a few electronics stores last night, I didn't see anyone camping out the way people were lined up for Apple's iPhone.
[See our live coverage of the launch.]
I suspect there's some confusion about what Android is, exactly. Early on, it was dubbed the gPhone - but that's somewhat misleading if you try to do an Apples-to-apples comparison with the iPhone. In the case of Apple's iPhone, it was an operating system, too, but for one phone only - Apple's. Google's operating system, which also encourages the development of mobile applications, is eventually expected to land on a variety of devices. And now, there's some buzz that the Google's open-source operating system might eventually reach beyond phones and land on other products - maybe set-top boxes, TVs or even cars.
For now, the emphasis is on mobile phones. A growing number of mobile phones - beyond the iPhone - are already Web-capable. Google wants to supply those mobile surfers with the information they're seeking from a mobile Web connection.
To a certain extent, Google is already doing that by enhancing its mobile offerings. Applications like Gmail, Reader and, of course, search are already available through a mobile Web browser. In addition, a number of other operating systems - iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and others - are supporting Google Apps for Mobile, a much more attractive and user-friendly version of Google's most popular services. Last week, Google Maps for Mobile was upgraded to include Street View images. In addition, Google has been offering for some time now an SMS version of its search functionality. Send a SMS text message to GOOGL (46645) with a simple search such as "pizza, 94105" and you'll receive a text listing of pizza joints in the San Francisco zip code.
I've been running Google services on my phone (a Blackberry) for some time now so the excitement around a gPhone - err, Android - just isn't all that exciting to me. I'll certainly check out an Android phone as soon as I can - but I don't think I'll consider a switch to T-Mobile the way I considered a switch to AT&T for the iPhone.
Why would I? In many ways, I feel like my phone is already a Google phone.