Monday, November 05, 2007

Google becomes a fully fledged Mobile Company

Update 12th Nov...

Google's Android's platform on show. The first device in the video is similar to the one I saw. It has a fast UI (look how quick it is to switch between apps)and I like the notification/alerts on the home screen. The second device shows a much more iphone like experience, not just because of the touch screen (it looks like a capacitive touch screen to me), but because of the integration between tha apps. Note the webkit browser and impressive graphics.

Yesterday Google announced its plans for the wireless/mobile space with it's mobile platform - Android and a set of supporting industry partners under the Open Handset Alliance.

Two posts that analyse the announcement I thought were interesting are:


Here's my rambling thoughts.... If you were Google, had tons of cash and realised wireless/mobile is the future (as an enabler for search, advertising, social networking, staying connected etc..) what would you do ?

1) Build or buy a global mobile network (about a billion hurdles with this one and even Google does not have enough cash).

2) Develop a branded mobile phone range (a commodity product with limited shelf life) with constant need for renewal to stay ahead and then the problem of OS choice.

3) Take your product range and make mobile versions. Acquire mobile 3rd parties that fill gaps in product portfolio, or, align with existing mobile product range that bring customers with them.

4) Build own mobile OS and software/application stack with reference platform(s) based on different chipsets -(bonus make it open source and free/no licensing cost barrier-to-entry) and try and attract developers, partners, device OEM's as part of an ecosystem to maximise potential distribution.

Microsoft (MS) have gone for 3 and 4. Yahoo have gone for 3 to my knowledge. Google have gone for 3 and now, 4 with key differences to MS. Symbian started 4 (RIM/Palm also in this boat).

- MS made their mobile client apps only for Windows mobile up until very recently to try and entice Windows Mobile OS sales (thus limiting their distribution).
Google (and Yahoo) have been pursuing 3 with preinstallation of mobile clients -GMail, Google Search, Google Maps etc and mobilebrowser integration ... with the handset manufacturers and Operators globally, same as MS, but the difference being the mobile clients ran on multiple OS/runtimes (as they were either J2ME, Symbian or native implementations).

- With 4, Google have decided to go open source with a Linux based kernel and application layer, to try and maximise uptake and adoption with the different parties in the mobile ecosystem.

History is repeating itself. Do you remember the fanfare of Windows mobile years ago ? with Microsoft trying to attract the same mobile developer community and industry partners.

So what's different this time ? Well Google seem to have attracted a slew of heavyweight mobile ecosystem partners with their Open Handset Alliance from the off including importantly the chipset manufacturers for the reference implementations and with an open linux based platform, the developer community may be attracted under the guise they can reach greater distribution (dependent on how many device OEM's adopt the platform and launch devices).

The device OEM's have now, yet another OS choice, which if proves compelling may shift the device/OS mix.

(As an aside - all those Apple hackers frustrated with the closed/locked-down mobile OSX merry-go-round may have moved to this new developer platform- if Appple had not announced their iPhone SDK for native app development due Feb 08. I imagine we will see iPhone-esque 'native' applications for this platform quickly).

Is this mobile-industry-game-changing ? Hmmm. Too early to tell. Will the devices that use Android be any good ? From a UI perspective the prototype device I've seen running Android had a surprisingly slick/fast user-interface (but then again I've seen Savaje implementations that were ok and look where they are)... Mobile Linux OS implementations are also already in the market from Nokia and Motorola (Motorola also being part of the new alliance - what happened to Motorola LiMo foundation).

It's certainly a bold move, but I wonder if the run time fragmentation will continue as it has done. Will 3rd party application developers building their mobile services have just another OS/runtime to port to - Symbian C++, J2ME, Windows Mobile, BREW, native, and now Android-Linux ?

Two things for sure :

1) Google needs to pour significant energy and resources into making this initiative work, driving on this initial momentum (eg. they will include a set of developed Google mobile apps with Android which may be attractive for both operators and the signed up device OEM's)

2) Success will also be ** very ** dependent on the devices. They have to be good/cool (including form factor and all the usual stuff)

Otherwise it will be another mobile industry alliance fanfare that fades (like other have) with limited or no success over time.


Tequie said...

The competition Google's Android offers to Windows Mobile and other mobile companies raises an issue which I've seen highlighted at Namely, competition between these two tech world giants will only ultimately benefit us consumers. One will become the VHS of its world, the other BetaMax!

Martin said...

indeed tequie, plus don't forget the other heavyweight symbian will also be watching closely as this battle plays out ...

Yehuda said...

There's the 5th route, namely create an platform for further applications, this is the Yahoo Go 3.0 approach.