Well, here it is: The first smartphone powered by Google's new, open source technology called Android.
This morning, executives from T-Mobile USA, Google and mobile phone maker HTC showed off the upcoming device, called G1, at a press event in New York City. Featuring an iPhone-like touchscreen in addition to a slide-out keyboard, the new gadget will be available October 22, at a price tag of $179.
Video demonstrations of the new phone highlighted how the device can use Amazon.com's music service or connect users to their Facebook accounts. Naturally, the device is Google-friendly: There's a button dedicated to online search on the device's keyboard.
The executives didn't mention any other smartphones in their presentation, but made clear that the device can do the same sorts of tricks that Apple's iPhone can do: Photos, music, map services? Check, check, and check. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the device does not connect with Apple's iTunes service.)
Though U.S. consumers are typically cutting edge, said T-Mobile's chief development officer, Cole Brodman, use of mobile Web services in this country is at "a dismal 16 percent."
"What's been lacking is a compelling set of applications and devices," he said.
"We believe that 'open' is going to drive the future of the mobile internet."
That was recurring theme of the news conference: Open standards are the future of the mobile Web. While Apple keeps control over the sort of applications that are posted at its "App Store," any software developer will be able to build and make available software for Android-using devices.
Google was founded on the principles of such open technology standards, said Google's vice president of mobile products, Andy Rubin. "With Android we are bringing some of those strategies to the mobile phone," he said. "We think Android is future proof because it has open-ness built in."
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin showed up at the end to sing their praises of the new phone and their new technology. Brin said he'd enjoyed tinkering on the phone and had already devised a simple, playful program that lets the user measure the amount of time the device spends in the air if a G1 user tosses it.
But, while there will soon be an Android store online to sell applications, Google's phone-making partners probably wouldn't want to see an application that encourages users to toss the flashy new device in the air, he admitted. So don't expect to be able to download Brin's program anytime soon. "I'm getting some dirty looks," he said.
September 23, 2008; 11:04 AM ET
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