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Analyzing Google's "Android"

If you can measure a new technology's popularity by the number of companies trying to attach their names to it, then Google's new Android mobile-phone platform is a big deal.

By the time I left the office yesterday, I'd heard from the developer of Android's voice-command software, a company providing fonts for Android, a publicist for a competing Linux mobile software effort, yet another mobile-Linux software developer, a firm that sells cheap international cell-phone calling, the Public Knowledge think tank (which basically opined "Yay, Google!") and CTIA, the wireless industry's trade association ("If ever there was evidence that so-called 'net neutrality' rules were not needed, today's news is it").

This kind of breathless anticipation says something--and not just that a lot of people are unhappy with their cell phones. Google's past successes have rightly led people to expect great things from the Mountain View, Calif., company, and now it has given itself one of the toughest tasks imaginable: reinventing the mobile phone with this new, open-source software.

Without prototype phones to test or even pictures of the Android software to study, it's hard to say how well Google might live up to these expectations. But a few things seem clear about this project--formally known as the Open Handset Alliance--from the limited material published so far, press coverage and a phone interview yesterday with Google's Rich Miner, who helps run the company's wireless strategy:

* Although dozens of companies are listed as partners on the Android site, Google started this work and continues to orchestrate the project, Miner said. This isn't a phone by committee, nor is Google inviting the world to inspect and edit the Android source code just yet--though people will have that right, one absent from name-brand phone software, once this platform ships.

* This project also incorporates many contributions from people and companies. For example, its music- and video-playback software comes from a developer called PacketVideo. And Miner said that Android's Web browser is built on the same open-source WebKit software as the Safari browser in Mac OS X and the iPhone. ("Next week, we'll be releasing all of the improvements we've made to WebKit," Miner said--meaning that if Apple incorporates these revisions into Safari, the next iPhone could itself be a bit of a Google phone.)

* The Android software is written to run on cheap handsets, not just flashy, high-end smartphones. Miner said it allows for a variety of input methods, including conventional numeric keypads, QWERTY keyboards and touchscreens. Handwriting recognition is not built in, although Android's open-source license means anybody could add it later.

* The interface remains a secret. Miner would only describe it as "consumer-friendly and state-of-the-art," but said the software-development toolkit to be released on Monday would include a working, preview copy of the Android interface. Considering what Google has done to make Web search, e-mail and mapping--to name a few things--both powerful and simple, cautious optimism seems justified here.

* Miner said Android will be written to allow synchronization to a computer's address book, calendar and other personal-info-management programs. But it will be up to other companies to write appropriate sync software.

* The hardware manufacturers listed as Android partners have all made significant contributions to phone design recently: HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung. The supporting U.S. carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile, have not done as well despite offering more liberal usage terms than AT&T and Verizon (T-Mobile unlocks its phones to allows use with other carriers after the first 90 days of a contract, and Sprint doesn't prohibit broad categories of Internet use with its mobile broadband service). For more on this angle, see veteran tech writer Glenn Fleishman's analysis of Google's partners in the Mac newsletter TidBits.

* Any wireless carrier that adopts the Android software could, however, build a traditional, locked phone with it. During a conference call yesterday afternoon, Android director Andy Rubin and Google CEO Eric Schmidt each said this software's open-source license requires them to offer that freedom--although Schmidt called that "both possible and highly unlikely," in that a locked-down Android phone would only disappoint customers.

* While we'll be able to see what the Android interface looks like starting next week, nobody is predicting the arrival of any Android-powered phones before the second half of next year.

While we all wait, what do you hope to see come out of this Android project?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  November 6, 2007; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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I'm hoping that the Android platform will also support certain pda type devices such as Palm's Tungsten TX or Nokia's 770. This may just be what Palm needs to stay afloat being that they still can't seem to get their act together with the OS side of things.

Posted by: eon | November 6, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse


Its still a bit 'unclear' to me just what this really is. As a Realtor, their are essentially 2 views out their about any kind of 'instant access' to almost any kind of data material.

The first is that a SUCCESSFUL Realtor needs to own a desktop, a laptop and a PDA or smart phone, so as to allow for virtually instantaneous information receipt, human processing and turnaround.

The second is that a SUCCESSFUL Realtor also needs to remain sane and therefore while he or she may own and use these kinds of devices, their existance CANNOT control his or her life, which is often already hectic enough and if clients are or become aware of Realtor possession and use of these kinds of devices, THEN they will EXPECT the Realtor to be available, anywhere, anytime and any ... [you name it] and once that happens, 'there goes the neighborhood.' LOL [One's own sanity and possibly family and/or other meaningful relationships where this is hard to tolerate over time.] Arguably we have been at this stage for a long time already, but the real trick is greater convenience, access, response capability, COMBINED WITH flexibility and reasonable as opposed to unreasonable client expectations.

So, in a nutshell, [no pun intended] for us non-techies, in a couple of sentences or a paragraph in plain English, what does this all mean?

Posted by: | November 6, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The name "Android" really turns me off.

Posted by: A | November 6, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I must say that as a consumer I love Google, its my home page Google earth is great and Picasa is very handy. when I saw internet articles about a possible google phone I didnt think they would dive into the "device" production market as they are very much a software/web-app company so this would be out of charecter for thier normal business activitys.

The possibility of a Google brand software powered phone interests me greatly as I have always been annoyed by current mobil phone OS's. I find Nokias slow, Sony ericssons flawed and often buggy and suspect that the whole "Open" approach to this mobile operating system will mean quick fixed being made by savvy hobbyist programmers.

As I non-programmer I will certainly be trying to get hold of the dev kit just to see what it does and learn about it.

Go Google we need something to thwart the

Posted by: Ben Lamkin - UK | November 6, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey Rob - Great article... can't wait until the SDK is out on Monday and somebody posts pics of the interface!

I'm also a Realtor and have been following this whole g-phone thing for the past few months. While I understand what Bruce was commenting on with regards to being too available, the cool thing about something as open and customizable as Android promises to be is the choice developers and consumers will have. Having meaningful data and apps that play well together just means the potential for better time management and better client service for mobile professionals.

Right now I have data scattered over a half dozen or so apps that do not play well together and accessing it while on the move is difficult at best. I'm very excited about the possibility that a single mobile device can give me what I want, where I want it, in the format I want.

If this ends up being widely accepted it could be a win-win for everyone... and that's a good thing!

Posted by: | November 6, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Great article.

From the Open Handset Alliance website:
"Android breaks down the barriers to building new and innovative applications. For example, a developer can combine information from the web with data on an individual's mobile phone -- such as the user's contacts, calendar, or geographic location -- to provide a more relevant user experience."

So I am hoping that Google makes it easy to use my Google Calendar with my Android phone.

"With Android, a developer could build an application that enables users to view the location of their friends and be alerted when they are in the vicinity giving them a chance to connect."

This is interesting. I think Android will include SOAP push with API. The operating system will be like a dashboard that wakes up applications upon receipt of any arbitrary push data. And of course Android should include a GPS API.

Posted by: exapted | November 6, 2007 6:22 PM | Report abuse

If Android is anything like Google's web pages, then as soon as I connect to a system in a foreign country, then it will change my user interface to another language, despite every user setting to the contrary.

Posted by: Mike | November 6, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Open Source is great thing. I was delighted when I first seen OpenMoko project. But they are small and I guess can't make big thing out of it as google will.

Posted by: Janos | November 7, 2007 3:25 AM | Report abuse

HTC will give the first hardwareware to the android Os..sumhow HTC is going Catch the Market with Android the moment they have already taken the mobile market and HTC will Expand that by manufacturing the hardware for android Os also....HTC Omni is lucky enough to Launch the Android Os to the Glbal phone Market...

Posted by: | November 7, 2007 5:43 AM | Report abuse

android Os will be totaly Diferent palmOs and apple but will be similler to windows mobile Os..that make users to access internet easily than other Oss...

Posted by: | November 7, 2007 5:46 AM | Report abuse

What about privacy? I don't want to give my cell phone information to Big Brother Google, for their advertising database.

Posted by: TomT | November 8, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I heard you on On Point the other day, and I really had a hard time getting excited about this.

The biggest issue I see is made in your second to last bullet point. The cell phone carriers are never going to allow us to have any phone they don't want us to have. Google can create the best software ever, but if the cell phone carriers decide that it's going to keep them from taking even a dime from us, they'll kill it before it gets anywhere.

I don't think that cell phones suck because the cell phone manufacturers are incompetent software programmers. They suck because their true customers, the cell phone carriers, couldn't care less about good products. Even the iPhone, which is about the most impressive piece of hardware and software I've ever seen, is intentionally crippled by AT&T and its lousy network. Until the carriers' attitudes change, I don't have a lot of hope that the phones, or our experience using them, can get much better.

Posted by: Bill D | November 10, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The Android interface does not really matter. Although Android will ship with an interface, which if we see Google's past, should be simple yet productive, the Android architecture allows third-party applications which can even replace the home screen.

For example, my Realtor friends can buy or use a third party home screen application which puts all of their required information and applications on the home screen just like Yahoo Widgets do on their desktop screen.

As far as integration between the applications on the mobile device and those on the web is considered, the opportunities are endless.

Posted by: Adnan Ali | November 12, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Check out, it's a full resource for users and developers of the Android OS.

Posted by: Mike Hittle | November 12, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to know how google's initiative generates share-holder value. For a company that we all now has been giving things away for free, generating the revenue by selling ads (and a bit of our privacy) I do not see right now how in the extremly competitive cellco market (at least in Europe) there would be a real possibility the "give away" things and still survive. Unless it would bye them a lot of mobile subscribers.
Nevertheless they've decide that handing out 10M to what might prove to generate the killer app for mobile devices is worth it.

Posted by: Johannes | November 13, 2007 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Google has launched the Android Developer Challenge, which will provide $10 million in awards for great mobile apps built on the Android platform. More infos here (in french) :

Posted by: loick | November 14, 2007 4:13 AM | Report abuse

this video shows the cool apps that can be built with the SDK for Google's Android OS

Posted by: RK | November 15, 2007 4:13 AM | Report abuse

here is another link to the android developers challenge

ready, set ,go ;)

Posted by: bob | November 15, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I think ultimately the Android platform will lead to a great variety of open-source applications which will push the cell phone to a true all-purpose gadget. Following the developer discussions, current concepts range from GPS applications to MMO games among cell phone users.

I was reading, and looking over the players that got involved in Android, I am actually looking forward to the first handsets, they definitely should be fun to use.

Posted by: Ted Sanders | November 18, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

here is a good forum foe android where android programming,android developers,android tutorial

Posted by: mohit | November 28, 2007 5:04 AM | Report abuse


I want to signal french Blog, about dev and applications on Android plateform. We try to interrest people on this new mobile framework.

Posted by: bactisme | December 4, 2007 3:50 AM | Report abuse

The name definately needs to be changed. Android is so.. space-y. Perhaps that was what was being aimed for, but still..

Anyway. I'm quite interested to see how this whole thing turns out. Google just simply fascinates me, and I look forward to hearing more about this "gphone".

Posted by: Deepika | December 28, 2007 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Is anyone an Android developer or is anyone looking for a company/person that produces Android?

If so please post your information at

Posted by: Jprogram | January 10, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

go to for the latest android network updates

Posted by: Kyle Lnny | January 16, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

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