As expected, on Monday (Nov 5th) Google announced their open mobile OS to the world, along with a very powerful new alliance with over 30 companies in the mobile space. Along with the announcement on their blog, they also organized a conference call where they brought industry leaders representing the strong alliance.
Over the past couple days I have been browsing and digesting the various aspects of this announcements and reactions from the blogosphere. This post is an attempt to distill down the details and offer my analysis of the situation.
Please bear in mind that this is only an early analysis. Once Android releases their SDK on Nov 12th, more details shall be available. I break this analysis into four simple categories, Salient items, impacts, issues and desires.
Here are some of the important elements from the announcement:
- It’s not a physical phone but an Operating System based on Linux
- It’s offered as an Open operating system available to anyone for modifications
- Google doesn’t think they can do this alone and hence have formed the Open Handset Alliance
- This is where they differ from Apple, who believes in delivering a holistic experience
- The handset manufacturers and carriers who are part of the alliance are free to deploy this OS in any shape or form
- The can slice and dice it as they please
- The Android OS offers equal capability to all applications deployed on it
- All applications are created equal and can leverage native resources equally.
- Applications can access web services and possibly create mashups
- Speculation is that OpenSocial apps will also be supported on Android
For full details go here.
In my opinion Android will have some strong impacts on the mobile industry.
- Android will push the “Open Device, Open Applications” model in the mobile arena
- It can officially break the “Walled Garden”
- Android has the ability to offer application developers “Write Once, Run Anywhere” capability
- This applies to handsets and carriers within the alliance
- Android can finally bridge the gap between the Internet and Mobile ecosystems
- Has the potential to offer unlimited personalization and customization
Having read through the announcement and the conference call transcript, here is my list of pain points:
- Although touted as the “Open OS”, carriers can still customize lock the final offering
- There is no mandate within the alliance to keep the device open when offering to the users
- This is positioned as the platform for quick development, however the first device won’t ship until mid 2008
- There is no mention of revenue enablement capabilities. One would think that Google will probably enable some sort of local ad engine.
- Although the OS offers full access to local capabilities, it does not mention anything around “Open Access” to carrier network capabilities
- For example: Can all the applications access SMSC, VoiceMail, MMSC etc?
- No mention if carriers will allow or restrict applications competing with their own service.
- For example: Can Twitter or Jaiku offer SMS services on the handset, where they leverage their own network and not the carrier’s
- No standard on User Experience. UI is one of the most important aspects of a mobile phone.
- iPhone’s success is attributed to their world-class Touch UI
Wishes and Desires
Going further I hope Google can incorporate the following within Android:
- Guaranteed “Open Access” by all members of the alliance
- Open libraries for common network services
- Leverage its service portfolio as applications on the handset
- Includes methods for handset manufacturers to extend Android SDK to offer access to additional device capabilities
- For example if an OEM wants to offer access to the Accelerometer, it should simply be able to extend the SDK
- Enable next generation calling features using GrandCentral. Read more here.
- Extend OpenSocial to the Android SDK
Overall I believe its an interesting move from Google. I do feel that Google may have rushed with the announcement and provided half baked details. This defintely makes it difficult to accurately plot the roadmap and decipher the impacts. I am hoping that the veil will gradually come off in the coming weeks and we can get additional clarity.
Hope you enjoyed the analysis. Please send in your comments, questions and criticisms.