Android: the Unphone
“This is the Gphone. OK, this is not the Gphone.” The words of Iliyan Malchev, a Google engineer, in a video describing the company’s new mobile phone effort, really couldn’t have been more apt. Because what Google’s gone and built isn’t a hold-in-your-hand phone, but a robust open-development platform upon which to build one.
Android, as Google’s calling it, is a complete “stack” of software for mobile phones, backed by a consortium of companies called the Open Handset Alliance. (Interestingly, Verizon, which was rumored to be interested in Google’s wireless efforts, isn’t yet a member.)
“Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices,” Andy Rubin, Google’s director of mobile platforms, explained in a blog post this morning. “It includes an operating system, user interface and applications–all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation. … Through deep partnerships with carriers, device manufacturers, developers and others, we hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities.”
The first phones based on Android are expected in the second half of 2008. And no, Google isn’t building one of them, as CEO Eric Schmidt pointed out over and over again during a conference call to discuss Android this morning.
Q: So if this is not the Gphone, when will we see the Gphone, and what will it be?
Eric Schmidt: We’re not announcing anything, but this is the platform for building a Gphone. It starts a whole wave of innovation …
Q: Does that mean there will be NO Google phone you can buy?
ES: Imagine not just one Gphone, but a thousand Gphones as a result of the partnerships … the many other people who will be joining the open initiative. We forgot to tell you that it’s available next week, and the terms are the broadest in the industry.
ES: We are not announcing a Google phone.
Q: Eric, I want to go back to the Gphone–what’s the deal?
ES: The deal is we don’t pre-announce products… if there were to be a Gphone, it would run Android..
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