Gphone: Google Opts for Software Over Hardware

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has confirmed it's entering the mobile market, but not with the much-rumored Gphone.

Rather than launching a branded handset, Google is developing an open source software platform for all mobile devices. They'll be providing their 'Android' software free of charge to handset manufacturers, which could pave the way for cheaper phones.

As part of the launch, Google has formed the Open Handset Alliance, bringing together 34 partners. This includes handset producers Motorola, HTC, Samsung and LG, plus carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint. (Source: BBC)

The software should be with developers within a week, and applications based on Android should be available on handsets late next year.

Many questions remain about Android. Google claims it will be a completely open system, making it far easier for developers to create Internet-based applications that work in exactly the same way on a computer and a phone. But, the 'open' aspect only applies to the manufacturers who choose to use the system. There are no restrictions on what they can do with it, meaning it is likely phone manufacturers will use it on locked phones which the end user can't modify.

It's also unclear exactly how Google will profit from the system. Some experts speculate they may have made deals with their new partners to take a cut of revenue from advertising that appears on phone browsers.

However, CEO Eric Schmidt suggested such a deal had not yet been made.  He recently told the media, "We're likely to want to enter into such agreements with handset partners because sharing in the revenue, sharing in the advertising, produces just a better total ecosystem." (Source: BetaNews)

Tech writer Andrew Orlowski questioned whether a Linux based system can really take off. He pointed out that the rival Symbian system is already established in the smart phone market because its producers are so experienced at making sure it integrates with handsets. Major hardware players such as Nokia are making wider use of Symbian, meaning Google faces a tough battle to gain market share. (Source: The Register)

So while Google's brand name may be a strong weapon in the mobile market, there's not yet enough hard evidence to judge whether this will truly change the partnership between the Internet and the cell phone.

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