Google Alliance to Unleash Potential of Mobile Internet

A Google-led international alliance announced this week that it is releasing open-source software that will free developers to bring the full power of desktop computing to mobile devices.

The Open Handset Alliance bills “Android” as the first comprehensive mobile operating platform that software developers are free to adapt in any ways they wish for video, audio, social networking and other features.

“We are developing a very open system and will distribute all the codes to allow people to innovate on mobile devices,” Google co-founder Serge Brin said in a conference call with the press and other alliance members.

“I’m really excited about this and I can’t wait to see what the next generation of innovators is able to do with these tools.”

Kits for tailoring applications to Android will be in developers’ hands in a week and the first phones built with the software platform are expected to hit the market in the second half of 2008, according to the alliance.

The 34-member alliance includes China Mobile, HTC, Intel, Motorola, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, Telefonica, LG and eBay.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt declined to reveal whether the US-based internet search colossus would release its own “G-phone” based on Android, which will allow for services and features supported by online ads.

“If you were to build a G-phone, you would build it out of this platform,” Schmidt said.

“Imagine not just a single Google phone, or G-phone, but thousands of G-phones made by a variety of manufacturers.”

Google said it was open to sharing internet ad revenues.

Android gives telecom carriers the option of providing people with services funded purely by advertising in much the same way Google and other internet firms make their money.

“You won’t see a completely ad-driven cellphone on this system for some time,” said Andy Rubin, director of Mobile Platforms at Google.

“The purpose of it being open means that anybody can do whatever they want with it.”

Android will affect “all players” in the mobile market and drive mobile software innovation, according to Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin.

“Google is far from the only beneficiary, as competitors like Yahoo and even Microsoft stand to benefit should they embrace this approach” Golvin said.

Industry statistics indicate there are nearly three billion mobile telephone users worldwide.

“The fundamental problem with most phones people have today is they don’t have full-power browsers,” Schmidt said.

“The Android platform provides a full-power browser. No longer will you have to shoehorn an application in.”

Developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers using Android will be better positioned to bring innovative products to market faster and at lower cost, according to the alliance.

“We plan to meaningfully work with developers for social networking and all the stuff we haven’t heard about because it hasn’t been invented yet,” said Rene Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile.

Obermann said T-Mobile would launch Android-based handsets in Europe and the United States next year.

“Today’s announcement is about more than any one product,” said Motorola chief executive Ed Zander.

“It is about open brand and open source. Long-term fragmentation will stifle innovation in this industry. Open source development will bring it out in the open where it can thrive.”

With mobile telephones used increasingly for games, video, television, films, and even banking, the Android platform might be a hit, according to industry analyst Jeff Kagan.

“These are the first wave of big-name companies and that says a lot,” Kagan said. “We have to wait to see how easy it is to use, how much it costs, and so on. But it may be the right application at the right time.”

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