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November 06, 2007

Google goes mobile - what it means


by Charlie Golvin

(Note: My colleague, Charlie Golvin, covers wireless devices and services, and he was kind enough to provide his insights on Google's latest mobile announcements - Charlene)

The Android platform that Google and its partners in the Open Handset Alliance announced today will significantly impact the mobile market — eventually, but the time for this impact to play out is lengthy.

Android is most impactful on handset vendors because it provides a very cost effective software solution that can reduce their licensing, development, and maintenance costs. The greater the portion of their portfolio that Android makes up, the more true this is.

Android holds a similar promise for developers, reducing the complexity of their development efforts that currently span multiple platforms and multiple versions within those platforms. Paradoxically, Android will increase complexity for developers initially since it represents yet another platform to support. But the platform also promises more flexibility in distribution and business models, more akin to the Net today.

Carriers have the opportunity to benefit by virtue of the innovation among developers Android will help spawn. Also, carriers now in search of business models that extend beyond subscriptions and pay per use have a greater chance of succeeding with partners that bring the necessary skills to make ad-based models succeed (try to think of one).

But there are some things Android won’t change — like the distribution model for handsets in markets like the US where carriers are in control. Those of you dreaming of low-cost unlocked handsets sold at retail along with flat rate access plans should sit back, take another hit off your bong, and mellow out. Not gonna happen, not just by virtue of Android’s presence, anyway.

Oh, what’s in it for Google? Reach to an audience that is larger than Net users on the PC, and growing larger, plus relevance for the next billions of Net users, the majority of whom will only experience the Net on a mobile phone, not a PC. And the opportunity to sell ads to anyone who wants to reach them, on any of these new Net-powered mobile apps or just on the mobile Internet through a browser.

(Note this goes nicely with the OpenSocial effort, since all those widget developers won’t have the tolerance for the complexity of today’s mobile environment but definitely want to be able to extend out to phones.)

Tags: Google, Open Handset Alliance, Android, mobile,  ,

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Android going to be big impact on industry!

Paul Sweeney

(1) How would this pan out if MS made their mobile windows platform OpenSource? ie. reduce incentive to move to OpenHandSet? will MS learn from the Linux experience?

Charlie Golvin

Paul: I think the problem is less OpenSource than pricing — if Microsoft were to give Windows Mobile away then they’d be better positioned against Android, but I think that’s a pretty unlikely scenario.

OpenSourcing Windows Mobile wouldn’t provide as much leverage against Linux because there’s no one out there in the developer community familiar with Windows Mobile and able to contribute additions — that would change over time but I doubt enough to allow them to catch up. Again, I think the point is moot because Microsoft won’t give their software away.

Joel West

Why is this Linux mobile phone platform any better than the 4 or 5 other ones (which Motorola and some of the other firms also belong to)? Since this is vaporware, why announce it now, when even the architecture diagrams and the terms of membership are not available? At least with LiMo, the structure of the deal (gated open source) was readily disclosed.

I wonder if Eric Schmidt's claim of "thousands of different phone models" marks the high water mark for Google hubris. Probably not.

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