Google, hoping to make a thousand mobile devices bloom, announced plans Monday to provide open-source software for mobile phones in a global project that has support from 33 wireless carriers, handset manufacturers and other companies.
The Open Handset Alliance – whose members include Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Motorola, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm – will release software, code-named Android, for developers next week to begin creating mobile Internet applications, said Google director of mobile platforms Andy Rubin.
According to Google, the Android platform is a Linux-based integrated mobile “software stack” that comprises an operating system, middleware, user interface and applications.
Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said Android will overcome the top problems mobile developers have encountered in writing applications for cell phones and other devices: high cost and complexity.
“Industries develop with some amount of proprietary technology,” he said during a press conference Monday. “The best model to get volume is to be open, that’s what the Internet has taught us.”
With Android, Schmidt added, “you’ll be able to do amazing things on your mobile phone that you never thought of.”
The Internet search company didn’t announce the rumored “GPhone,” supposedly a mobile phone tailored to Google’s online applications, but the Android software will provide the tools “if you were going to build the GPhone… or thousands of GPhones,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the problem with most mobile phones today is that “they don’t have full-power Web browsers.” Android includes a full-featured HTML browser, he said: “No longer will you have to shoehorn your application into a mobile environment.”
Rubin, who predicted Android-based handsets will be available in the second half of 2008, quelled rumors that suggested Google will be handing out free, advertising-supported phones. “You won’t see a completely ad-driven cellphone for quite some time,” he said.
The Android platform will be made available under the software license for Apache Web server, which would allow mobile operators and device manufacturers to customize virtually every aspect of the software. Rubin said the minimum technical requirements for Android are a 256-megahertz ARM9 processor, but that otherwise it’s “very flexible” and adaptable to many different screen sizes and form factors.
René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said T-Mobile expects to launch wireless Internet services based on the Android software in the U.S. and Europe in 2008.
Schmidt said the real test of the Android project “is whether [developers] are going to be able to build applications and do the amazing things you can do on the Internet on mobile phones as well.”