Speculation over the launch of a "Google phone" has been rife over the last few weeks and months. Now Google has ended the speculation with the announcement that, far from launching its own iPhone rival, it has set up Android, an open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.
Google, T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others have collaborated on the development of 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.
The Open Handset Alliance, which aims to develop technologies that will significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services, has 34 initial members. 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. Next week the Alliance will release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.
"This partnership will help unleash the potential of mobile technology for billions of users around the world. A fresh approach to fostering innovation in the mobile industry will help shape a new computing environment that will change the way people access and share information in the future," says Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.
"Today's announcement is more ambitious than any single 'Google Phone' that the press has been speculating about over the past few weeks. Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models."
Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms, writes in his blog: "We think what we are announcing – the Open Handset Alliance and Android – is more significant and ambitious than a single phone.
"In fact, through the joint efforts of the members of the Open Handset Alliance, we hope Android will be the foundation for many new phones and will create an entirely new mobile experience for users, with new applications and new capabilities we can’t imagine today."