"It's about an open platform, stupid!" While I didn't include Google when I first wrote my post about how voice is really all about application platforms, I did note in the comments that I had intended to do so... and today's announcement really shows that they should be in anyone's list of telephony application platforms. As announced on the Google blog with "Where's my Gphone?", Google today announced the Open Handset Alliance and the associated set of forthcoming software called Android. The front page of the Open Handset Alliance provides a rather compelling (to me) statement:
What would it take to build a better mobile phone?
A commitment to openness, a shared vision for the future, and concrete plans to make the vision a reality.
Welcome to the Open Handset Alliance™, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Together we have developed Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.
We are committed to commercially deploy handsets and services using the Android Platform in the second half of 2008. An early look at the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) will be available on November 12th.
The list of partners in the Open Handset Alliance is quite interesting... handset manufacturers, semiconductor companies, software companies... but also cellular/mobile operators such as Sprint and T-Mobile as well as NTT DoCoMo and the giant China Telecom.
Also intriguing to note that eBay is listed as a partner. Would this be for eBay itself or could it perhaps be for Skype? Adding Skype into this mix could be interesting as well.
The Google blog page contains this text which gives some insight into Google's interest:
Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications -- all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation. We have developed Android in cooperation with the Open Handset Alliance, which consists of more than 30 technology and mobile leaders including Motorola, Qualcomm, HTC and T-Mobile. Through deep partnerships with carriers, device manufacturers, developers, and others, we hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities.
We see Android as an important part of our strategy of furthering Google's goal of providing access to information to users wherever they are. We recognize that many among the multitude of mobile users around the world do not and may never have an Android-based phone. Our goals must be independent of device or even platform. For this reason, Android will complement, but not replace, our longstanding mobile strategy of developing useful and compelling mobile services and driving adoption of these products through partnerships with handset manufacturers and mobile operators around the world.
In the end, Google wants a platform upon which they can offer their many services. With this plan, they are hoping to turn a zillion mobile phones into a platform which Google - and many others - can use.
Fascinating move... and one that is naturally getting a ton of coverage in the blogosphere. I've not had the time to read much of it, but did catch Scoble, the NY Times article and ZDNet's take. I'm sure we'll all be reading much more about it in the days ahead.
Right now, all we can really do is speculate until next Monday when the (apparently open source) SDK becomes available. We shall see... although the initial signs are certainly that this could indeed cause some disruption.
P.S. One of the commenters on Scoble's blog wondered why there wasn't equivalent attention being given to http://www.openmoko.com/ , especially since it is out already with a product. My quick reaction would be that from what I know of OpenMoko, it is about an open platform, but from a single vendor and on a single hardware platform. This Google announcement would appear to transcend both the vendors and the hardware platforms. It's also an announcement from Google and it has impressive backers.