99 thoughts on “Google Launches Mobile Phone Platform, Android: What it Means, What Experts Think”

  1. Am I the only one who feels utterly cheated by the media hype and abysmally disappointed by the ‘grand’ gPhone plans as unveiled today? I see mostly NO underlying financial impact to Google and fail to understand the hype, the euphoria, the media frenzy.

    Yes, GOOG’s surely in a bubble.

  2. Joe Shmoe,

    I agree with you – the grand gPhone isn’t ready and won’t be ready till 2008. What ever is the first thing that comes to mind. I am seriously disappointed and i think this is a spin move.

    Anyway will keep you posted on results of my digging around…

  3. i think this alliance makes much sense for everyone involved . Nokia has already declared its intentions of becoming a service company . google reached there first .

    What interest me more is the similarity between two recent platform launch [ Facebook’s Platform and Google’s Mobile Platform ] . both claim to provide a level playing field for applications . that means Google’s App will enjoy same benefits,access or privilege as of any other app.

    Sometime its hard to resist the temptation .We have seen how similar claims were false in Hidden API case of Microsoft .

    These hidden API made Micorsoft Apps more responsive than competing apps . it will be interesting to see if Facebook and Google will resist using this for their advantage .

  4. “Nuance joined the Open Handset Alliance with other industry leaders to grow the entire mobile ecosystem,” said Steve Chambers, president, mobile and consumer services division, Nuance Communications. “We’re committed to apply our strength and leadership in voice-based search and messaging to move the market forward. By packaging and optimizing embedded speech technology components for open source distribution, we’ve given developers the opportunity to access speech solutions through open APIs using the Android platform and to easily upgrade to new, more advanced speech features as well. We believe deep collaboration with members of the Alliance will grow our core mobile business and fuel the proliferation of speech-enabled applications worldwide.”

  5. Nuance, please don’t put PR messages in the comments for this is for conversation, not hyping your product. There is a form which you can use to send your press release and if deemed useful i will include it in the post. i hate to be this harsh, you do this one more time, and i am going to have to block you.

    you are ruining the fidelity of conversation here with your PR messages

  6. I don’t think this will amount to much. The barriers to entry are very high. Look at how many years and billions Microsoft has invested in Windows Mobile. I think Google is underestimating the difficulty of penetrating this market. It is a technical nightmare because of the proliferation of devices. It is an economic nightmare because of the inefficient channel and conflicting interests of vendors, carriers, etc. Kudos to them for trying, but unless they’re committed for 5-10 years, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of results.

  7. barriers entry can be broken through quickly with brand indentity/loyalty….shoot like at what Apple did with their first entry in the mobile market. I predict they will succeed quite well quickly as long as their OS is as robust as advertised

  8. Om,

    while some seem disappointed by the lack of ‘g-phonish goodness’ here, i think this is a much bigger potential play at replacing the whole mobile phone software stack and aimed at making it truly an information appliance. think of it as an IP-services led “phone” design, not a telco-call based device.

    I am not surprised that the mobile carrier duopoly has not signed on as this low-friction stack could challenge the very existence of the walls in the mobile gardens.


  9. there is a tremendous amount of java apps for mobile devices that can be run on android with little or no modification. quality of the browser is a major question…

  10. @Monal, Om:
    MSFT (live), YHOO and GOOG have been striking deals with device makers for QUITE a while now — am I correct in thinking that this approach essentially translates to this: Instead of a deal with manufacturers to distribute GOOG apps on mobile phones, GOOG provides this software stack to them for free (cutting their costs spent on, say, Windows Mobile OS) and in return gets their apps on those devices for free?

    There is NO exclusivity to them having only GOOG apps on these devices AFAIK, NOTHING that ties all this to any direct financial gain for GOOG, NO visibility of stupidly-hyped ad-supported free phones. So what if T-Mobile is with them or if Verizon jumps in tomorrow? All that means is GOOG’s OS supported devices would come out — Yes I will be able to have MSFT Live apps on it, YHOO apps on it. No direct tie-in/advantage for GOOG whatsoever, as far as I see it.

    Om, your insider checks should really shed some light to all this media-in-bed-with-Google as I see it.

    Both OpenSocial and then gPhone have been tremendous disappointments with all signs of irrational excitement and bubble-istic stench.

  11. We’re disappointed because we built up the g-phone in blogs and forums without any substance to our techno musings! Google hasn’t promised one thing and delivered another, it’s simply laid out the facts albeit with a heap of PR spin. In terms of developing low cost handsets for the developing world this is a major step and I’d bet Google has it’s eye on Asia and Africa with this stack platform and not on incumbent operators in US and Europe. Asia and Africa hold the greatest opportunity for mobile developers and with Android (to borrow Om’s cricket analogy), at least they’re proposing a level playing field. It means apps and services have shorter dev times and can be tested in the real world environment.

    Savvy marketeers will view this as having 9 months to create innovative applications for this and for emerging platforms such as the iPhone at the other end of the market. By then El Jobs wil have seen the error of his ways and open up the iPhone platform to third party developers, I for one am waiting with imaginary apps for that day!

  12. vvb: There are many Java apps that could run on such a platform, but if those apps are hard to install and Java is as hard to find on the platform as it currently is on existing platforms, then Java won’t matter. Much as I love Java, I believe its effect on mobile consumer platforms is vastly overratetd.

  13. I don’t think I’ve ever been as underwhelmed by any announcement from the GOOG as this one. Taking a quick look at the FAQ from the openhandsetc:

    “Why is an open platform good for mobile operators?

    The overall cost of handsets will be lower and mobile operators will have complete flexibility to customize and differentiate their product lines. Furthermore, they will see much more rapid innovation in handsets and in services.”

    Right. My advice: Short GOOG.

  14. I thought Google had a strategy for a phone and it was going to be released in India. This announcement to me is like Sun saying they are releasing a new Java version. We want it but lets take this for granted.

  15. Does anybody know if this has something to do with OpenMOKO, the other open Linux cell phone platform? Maybe Android is just the same? How open is Android compared to OpenMOKO?

    The latter let’s you manipulate everything to the very core of the mobile phone functions. Yet now there are thousands of great free Linux programs running on the OpenMOKO devices. I would love to see this kind of openness backed by heavy weights like Google and the other mentioned companies.

    I think rohit got it right:

    i think this is a much bigger potential play
    at replacing the whole mobile phone software
    stack and aimed at making it truly an information
    appliance. think of it as an IP-services led
    “phone” design, not a telco-call based device.

    It’s a Linux for phones! You can do everything with it, if it’s really open. I already wonder how it cooperates with Google’s Ubiquisys femtocells. I would like to have one at home to channel all my mobile calls trough my 16 Mbps broadband. Well, in fact I do that already over Wifi, also I read websites and listen to the radio with Wifi on my Nokia E61. But it sucks battery so a 3G femtocell would be much nicer.

    It annoys very much that my cell phone is not as open and flexible as my PC. Give me a command line to my cell phone and I will be happy!


  16. It is interesting that google didn’t say what browser technology is being used. probably WebKit.

    What virtual machine. probably LLVM.

    Notice no mention of Java or Sun being part of this alliance.

    Let see if my prediction comes true.

  17. Everyone’s all pissy because Google didn’t give us an actual phone? Come on! Google isn’t a hardware vendor and they are smart enough to know it.

    I think this is a huge announcement and will have significant impact going forward. Google in your pocket, an optimized platform for running mobile Google apps and services. Mobile adsense. It’s not that hard to figure out. Verizon and AT&T not involved? Not yet, but this is an open platform, so they are free to jump in when they feel it’s right for them.

    Being an open system, hackers will have a field day with this and it could get some serious traction among the geek community who are so frustrated with the iPhone limitations.

  18. I agree with all who think that gPhone was always a fantasy of blogosphere (including GigaOM). All the hype and expectations were in the blogs that got spread like a fire with sites like techmeme.com. And now people are cheated/disappointed…for what? Seeing the big picture about the announcement and massive news it is going to generate, I don’t think this is purely a PR stunt to tackle a overly hyped website – Facebook – Om’s take. If google is announcing an open platform (which also means anybody in this world can use it) they better be honest about it otherwise their massive wealth is at stake.

  19. Hi Om,

    DOA – Dead on Arrival.

    In a years time, what advantages, if this was sincere, would it hold?

    It seems pointless, as presented, as most apps now run in Java anyway, those that aren’t fundemental, and already established.
    So the concentration on OS/Platform isn’t as important anymore, unless your thinking about 3rd-world cost-margins, and what microsoft done in tying windows to office, etc.

    This looks, at the moment, as quite cynical spin; However, in the long-term, for which they are planning, I think this is simply a beach-head, and getting others to do the heavy-lifting, for the eventual google eco-system on mobile.

    And, There will eventually be a “Gphone” with integrated advertising data-streaming.

    Also, Don’t forget, that the current iphone and it’s market-aims, are only early toe-testers for apple, it one day, after getting it’s feet wet, and learning how the whole mobile world works, also wants to come into proximity (re: market-share) with Nokia, Though I’ve always said tht it’s Sony that has all it’s ducks in a row.

    Also, see my previous comment about the value proposition in your last Gphone post.

    Yours kindly,

    Shakir Razak

  20. Very disappointed to see Om missing the potential of this one and mistaking it for a PR move to counter what? Facebook ad platform launch of all things! Google’s view and outlook is far broader and goes much more into the future than that!

    Come on, Om, shed your blinding disappointment based on preconceived expectations of the gPhone, and see the real potential in this one!

  21. What are you guys talking about.

    The iphone rumors began in the fall of 2005, followed by comments from Steve Jobs in the fall of the 2006, with the official launch in January 2007 and product availability in June 2007.

    Google is stirring the pot and will bring priceless branding to itself and its mobile alliance partners.

    No wonder why Verizon is considering not missing this train.

  22. Om, I heard you on the call, and I was wondering, whats your take on how this will affect Apple-Google relations, Eric is on Apple’s board, and as much as he said that the two aren’t necessarily competing, thats obviously not true. Is he in some sort of legal tightspot?

  23. Great! This lowers handset cost. I’m sure the manufacturers and cellular companies will pass that savings right along to the consumer.

  24. David Jacobs said it right: Google is not a hardware vendor and they are smart enough to know it. Google knows what it is, knows its core competencies. Thus, I would say this was an excellent announcement by Google instead of Google trying to get into businesses that its not familiar with. As a shareholder one should be happy that Google didn’t announce a single hardware phone. Google’s vision is much larger than that.

    Oh yes, by the way, Markus asked about OpenMoko. Aha, did anyone else noticed that very recently (a week or two ago?) Trolltech shut down its Greenphone efforts? Greenphone was hardly one year old. Greenphone was trying to also create an open platform for mobile phones but nothing really materialized. I have a feeling that Trolltech got wind of the Android announcement.

    Oh yes, by the way Om Malik, I can’t believe that you didn’t pick up on this. Did you not notice that Steve Jobs also must have gotten wind of Android and that is surely why he subtly announced very recently that iPhone and iPod Touch will (as of February) magically have an SDK for developers? Really, why the about-face by King Steve? What reason is there for Apple to go from the stance, “hey developers, do your iPhone apps Web 2.0 style only with Safari” to “hey developers, we will have an iPhone SDK in February”. So don’t you see, Android has already had derivative good karma by pushing King Steve into a direction to try and open up the iPhone.

    Oh yes, and by the way, why is it a surprise that Motorola announced joining the Open Handset Alliance? You guys all seem to forget about culture. Ed Zander used head up Sun Microsystems with Scott McNealy. Zander comes out of Silicon Valley, he knows the culture, he knows Eric Schmidt and friends. This is in fact not a big surprise (but everyone and their blogs cackles away as if “ooh” and “ahhh” about what amounts to nonsense).

  25. This is another Windows Mobile play. Just like Microsoft and iPhone they will fail to build the volume to drive their component costs to those of Nokia (I don’t work for Nokia nor have any direct interests). Furthermore the IP stacks to gain access to the networks are in big patent pools and someone has to pay for the license. See Nomura Securities recent report on mobile devices. Maybe this will be a goer with WiFi Max but until then it will struggle to make 5% global market share. Anyone that has seen Nokia’s Linux tablet at CTIA will be saying that Nokia saw this coming, but look to Symbian Nokia S60 is the serious platform to watch.

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  27. Guys, my follow up post(s) on this address some of the questions you have and hopefully you can join that conversation. Instead of responding to each comment, I did a summary post, and also the one on linux mobile’s day in the sun. sorry for totally googling out.


  28. @Mark… android runs java apps. the interface is all done in java.

    This is pretty much what I was expecting. We had to wait a long time for the iPhone too! And when we finally get gPhones, won’t it be nice to have great apps already?

    Maybe Google will subsidize our cellphone plans if there are ads on our phones. Cheap handsets, and cheap service FTW!

    Further Reading: Mike Elgan at the Raw Feed had some interesting insight on how a gphone would work: http://www.therawfeed.com/2007/11/making-google-phone-opensocial.html

  29. Who controls user experience, privacy, and integrating application stack? Only time will tell if it is an act of desperation or a bold risk.

  30. android will be better than other mobile linux variants. it’s important to google. also, it gets the pr that motomagx, for example, doesn’t, probably attracting developers. also, something like openmoko just doesn’t have the resources.

  31. Did you not notice that Steve Jobs also must have gotten wind of Android and that is surely why he subtly announced very recently that iPhone and iPod Touch will (as of February) magically have an SDK for developers? Really, why the about-face by King Steve?

    What the hell are you talking about? An SDK was already planned. All Jobs said at launch was “it’s not ready yet, we have stuff to work out before we open it up.” He never said it wouldn’t eventually be opened. Just not straight away, because they had other issues to deal with and kinks to iron out.

    Talk about factually challenged. I’m not sure why you think that the iPhone SDK has anything to do with Google. And what’s with the juvenile “King Steve” nonsense?

  32. I hate it when people refer to companies by their stock acronyms. Also, Google’s new phone OS will be Java-based? Please — shoot me now. My LG phone is Java-based and the interface is fraught with little intermittent micro-delays, which add up to an unresponsive and frustrating experience. Java blows, and the only good thing that could have come out of Google’s entry into the market would have been a universally available OS infrastructure that does not have any of Java’s weaknesses — but no dice. I wasn’t expecting Google to design any hardware (if you’ve been paying attention, they disavowed that rumour long ago), but I was expecting them to do something special. A Java-based mobile phone OS is definitely not it.

  33. == “…This is one massive PR move, with
    == nothing to show for it right now…”

    Nothing to show?

    They’re releasing a (preliminary) SDK in ONE week, an SDK that will allow 497 gajillion EAGER Linux developers to start doing their thing.

    Nothing to show?

  34. Give up the gPhone. Please. In all this time, has it not clicked that Google isn’t in the hardware business?

    Google is in the ad revenue-based infrastructure business. They are in the business of paving Google-owned/controlled roads and freeways over every possible media channel and then figuring out how to derive ad revenue from it. A common mobile platform enables them to streamline efforts to put Google search boxes and widgets on phones at a minimum of labor overhead. Spending money to develop a shared mobile platform is a bargain compared to developing custom apps for every proprietary mobile platform that already exists.

    Sure, a common platform benefits Google’s competitors as well but if 70 cents on every dollar in a mobile ad platform goes to Google, they still come out on top. And as long as they control the general direction of the Open Handset Alliance, they get to make the rules. Google knows they can’t keep growing ad revenue on search, blogs, and homepages forever – they need to keep creating new markets. Next to TV and the Internet, the phone screen is the next most viewed opportunity for them so that’s where the money is going.

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  36. Nothing to show? They’re releasing a (preliminary) SDK in ONE week, an SDK that will allow 497 gajillion EAGER Linux developers to start doing their thing.

    OK, so it’s less than nothing.

    Linux developers aren’t known for creating great, user-friendly software. Having however million developers creating apps that nobody wants is not really a good thing, it will only create confusion. It would be better to have a dozen good developers than a million hacks.

    How will users be able to tell the good apps from the malware and viruses?

  37. Google has open sourced technologies under
    a liberal license to level the
    playing field.
    IM — libjingle
    Social Networks — OpenSocial
    and now the Android platform.

    There is little incentive for an
    independent software vendor
    to develop upon these technologies because,
    its hard to see how to make money off these technologies. It appears that Google wants
    developers to devote their time to further
    its ambitions under the guise of open-source.

  38. All interesting stuff.

    I thought that this announcement was for Google to remain as innocuous as possible, while working on bidding for the 700MHz spectrum rights, eventually coming out with compatible handsets that provide calling services subsidized by the revenues from other streams such as mobile advertising and those generated by the apps.

    I thought that this is just one of a series of annoucements.

    As to the lateness of the mid 2008 hardware intro, everything everyone has bought this year will not remain to be as sexy as anything that comes out in 8-12 months. So, i don’t know what the gripe is about.

    I refuse to believe that SDK is all that Google is ever going to offer.

    Coming to think of it, this is a play whereby Google gets to forward (Google-subsidized and Google OS compliant handsets and resulting revenue streams) and backward integrate (OS, spectrum and ownership of airwaves) along the value chain through open mobile OS platform.

    What am I missing?

  39. I’m struggling with this – I’m all for new platforms… but only if they make life easier for the poor developers! As it stands it’s YAAPI (Yet Another API) to try and get to grips with.

    If it comes with easy to use and work with development tools then I’ll think about it. Otherwise, I really can’t be bothered – there’s enough to learn about as it stands.

  40. I run a website on the OpenMoko ( http://www.mobilemoko.com ) and anyone that says that they lack the resources to create a great phone needs to realize that on a completely open platform, unlike trolltech’s qtopia, it is completely possible for the community to easily adapt the hundreds of thousands of linux programs out their for use on the phone. Right now the OpenMoko is finishing up its first phase and a consumer version should be out soon with new features and a near complete software stack. I am excited to develop for OpenMoko due to my complete control over what language I write in, and how it interfaces with the hardware.

  41. so let me get this straight, T-mobile and Sprint will be the only ones to get the g-phone and android applications. sources around tell me the product is being released the 1st quarter of 2008 can anyone confirm this or is it the second half of 2008. I just want to know what is going on but cuz i cant wait till T-Mobile gets it.

  42. am from Maldives .thats good news. am always using mirosoft windows mobile. very very familiar and customise easily. but last january i bought I phone.. that mobile nice and slim.. but noy familer.. no customise. thats y very difficult to customise… windows mbile has more different location to keep own application. so i hope google Android is better than all mobiles.. am waiting ur ring..

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