The platform, called Android, has been developed by Google and others as part of the Open Handset Alliance, made up of more than 30 partners. The goal of this ambitious initiative is to stimulate innovation in the mobile space and accelerate improvements in the way people use the web from their mobile phones.
The open source platform will have a complete set of components, including an operating system, a middleware stack, a customizable user interface, and applications.
The first Android-based phones should hit the market in the second half of 2008. The platform will be available under an open source license that will offer great flexibility to those who adopt it to modify its components and design services and products, as Google has indicated.
The alliance will publish a “early access” development kit next week, which will provide developers with the necessary tools to create applications for the platform, as indicated by Google.
Other founding members of the alliance are Broadcom, eBay, China Mobile, Intel, LG Electronics, NTT DoCoMo, Nvidia, Samsung, Sprint Nextel, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Texas Instruments and Wind River.
A notable absence from this list is Google’s traditional ally Apple, whose popular iPhone could see its lead cut in a short period of time as a result of Google’s efforts.
At a press conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Android “will create a new mobile experience for all users, with new applications and new capabilities that no one can imagine today.”
There are around three billion mobile users around the world, so improving access to Internet services and applications fits in with Google’s fundamental mission, he said.
Making it easier for people to access Google search engines and other online services through mobile devices is key for the company, which would expand its advertising business to the wireless world.
Apparently, most of the Android technology comes from a company with the same name acquired by Google in 2005. One of its co-founders, Andy Rubin, now director of mobile platforms at Google, also participated in the press conference and has promised more technical details about the platform when the SDK (Software Development Kit) is released next week.
Rubin has acknowledged that the operating system component used is based on Linux, and that the set of components includes what he and Schmidt have described as a robust and feature-packed mobile HTML browser, which is the key to achieving the goal. to radically improve the user experience on the Internet from the mobile. The browser will also be crucial for Google to increase and improve its ability to deliver online ads to mobile phones.
Asked about the absence of Apple from the list of partners, especially considering that he is on the Apple board, Schmidt has indicated that he is also a “happy” user of the iPhone, but that the goal of Android is to generate multiple “mobile experiences” including some that have not yet been invented.
Still, there is still a clear indication that Apple may not look favorably on Google’s efforts, as the alliance could benefit competing handset makers and vendors that don’t supply the iPhone. AT&T, Apple’s partner for the iPhone, is not currently one of Google’s allies for Android.
Basically, Android could accelerate the pace at which competing terminals could offer user experience innovations over the iPhone, thereby interfering with the current appeal of the iPhone in that market.
A few weeks ago Apple announced that it will release the SDK so that third parties can create applications for the iPhone. This SDK is expected to be available in February.
More information about the Open Handset Alliance on this website.