Google seems to be building platforms to bring multiple entities under an umbrella. Instead of making Orkut directly compete with Facebook, Google came up with OpenSocial, which has brought together multiple entities. It is more of a platform than a product, inviting others to join and build it. Now there is a new one – Open Handset Alliance and Android, this time in the mobile space.
The Google announcement says
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.
Google seems to be doing more than products, or maybe it is trying to compete with more than products, the platform. Android is also open source, and is based on the open source Linux kernel. The technical specifications are of course interesting, but the the impact sure will be multi-fold.
Android, being open source and based on the Linux kernel, can rush in many developers and develop a good market of mobile applications for mobile open source. If this truly gets available on multiple devices, cheap availability and lush opportunities can propel mobile Linux much further. It remains to be seen how it is managed, but the open source will at least make it easier to voice their concerns or even customize it for their needs. This can also bring in the one big missing factor in the mobile world – standardization.
But, I think a lot will depend on how other players react to this. OpenMoko, with Qtopia has already provided a open source platform. Om Malik elaborates on similar efforts in the mobile world. I wonder if this will also affect the J2ME development. Matt Assay rounds up reactions from various corners to this announcement. TechCrunch reports the question-answer session with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
I do not use my mobile for anything more than a phone. Mainly because in spite of having capabilities of a computer, it is still not as useful. There are too many proprietary restrictions, too may things tied to applications and platforms. To truly replace my notebook the phone should allow me to use my applications the way I want to use. Otherwise it is simply not productive enough. I hope these open source efforts will truly make the mobiles into computers.