Deadly Alliance

Google Android Open Platform for Mobile Devices
by: Jerry Liao

Everytime we buy a new mobile phone, most of us if not all are more concern about the functionality, style and of course price. Seldom do we consider the operating system that comes with the handset. Mobile OS like WindowsMobile, Java, Palm OS, Symbian and others.

If we’re going to look at mobile phones, we can compare it to a personal computer with Windows as the dominant OS. In the mobile world, Symbian OS is the leader simply because Nokia (part owner of Symbian) dominates the mobile market plus other mobile handsets supports Symbian as well. An operating system is a software controlling the overall operation of a multipurpose computer system, including such tasks as memory allocation, input and output distribution, interrupt processing, and job scheduling. This definition can be applied to mobile OS as well, the only difference is the device – we are referring to mobile phones or any handheld device this time.

I remember in a Nokia presscon held in Eastwood, I asked Parakshit Bhasin, former country general manager of Nokia Philippines if the day would come that users can choose which application will be included in their mobile handsets. I asked the question simply to point out one thing – everytime we buy a mobile phone, we pay for the software as well. And being able to choose which application I want to be included will in a way bring down the cost of my phone. By the way, Bhasin then said my idea was far fetched. It maybe a wishful thinking before, but not anymore.

A broad alliance of leading technology and wireless companies joined forces to announce the development of Android, the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. Google Inc., T-Mobile, HTC, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, LG, Sprint, Qualcomm, Motorola, eBay, Intel, Nvidia, Texas Instrument and others have collaborated on the development of Google Android through the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders.

This alliance shares a common goal of fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today’s mobile platforms. By providing developers a new level of openness that enables them to work more collaboratively, Android will accelerate the pace at which new and compelling mobile services are made available to consumers.

With nearly 3 billion users worldwide, the mobile phone has become the most personal and ubiquitous communications device. However, the lack of a collaborative effort has made it a challenge for developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers to respond as quickly as possible to the ever-changing needs of savvy mobile consumers. Through Android, developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers will be better positioned to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost. The end result will be an unprecedented mobile platform that will enable wireless operators and manufacturers to give their customers better, more personal and more flexible mobile experiences.

Thirty-four companies have formed the Open Handset Alliance, which aims to develop technologies that will significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services. The Android platform is the first step in this direction — a fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008.

The Android platform will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products. The Alliance will soon release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.

Android holds the promise of unprecedented benefits for consumers, developers and manufacturers of mobile services and devices. Handset manufacturers and wireless operators will be free to customize Android in order to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost. Developers will have complete access to handset capabilities and tools that will enable them to build more compelling and user-friendly services, bringing the Internet developer model to the mobile space. And consumers worldwide will have access to less expensive mobile devices that feature more compelling services, rich Internet applications and easier-to-use interfaces — ultimately creating a superior mobile experience.

It maybe an unfair comparison but I would like to say that the mobile phone is the new PC of today, Symbian OS is the new Windows, and Android is the new Linux of the mobile world. Nokia is noticeably missing from the group, something not surprising because they want to protect their interest in Symbian OS. It gives Nokia an advantage of course. But I think Nokia will have no choice but to join the alliance soon just like Microsoft slowly inching in to the open source world as well. Monopoly has no room anymore in this digital age of ours.

Android if successful will shatter the dominance of other mobile oS. And will provide a true open OS that will provide flexibility and freedom to the mobile world. Not to mention cheaper and more functional phones. I can now buy a phone with basic functionalities and simply buy the applications that is important or relevant to my use. Unlike what’s happening now – I am forced to buy the phone and the application that comes with it. That’s how the world evolves now. One day you’re on top, the next day you may be at the bottom. Truly, technology is empowering the consumer.

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