Android: an open platform for mobile communications

The announcement by Google of an open platform for mobile communications marks a milestone in the evolution of the Internet.

The conventional cell-phone is a wireless unit with some data processing capabilities, a phone plus a PDA, as exemplified by Palm's Treo, Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry.

In contrast, Google defines a Linux-based computing platform that can make phone calls.

The difference is significant an offers wide range of options and possible technology combinations by defining a device stack for mobile communications that includes a Linux-based OS, a defined API and associated development tools.

Not much is known since the API will be available on November 12th. What is known can be summarized as follows:

  • Platform. Open source software communications platform named Android. The definition is a software-based API that allows any hardware technology to be able to develop and deploy mobile applications and services.
  • Alliance. Open Handset Alliance, OHA, which includes 34 registered participants. Participants include T-Mobile, Sprint, China Mobile, Telefonica of Spain, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Intel and Texas Instruments.
Not surprising is the absence from the alliance of names such as Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and Apple.

This move by Google offers also an alternative to proprietary development by proposing instead a common infrastructure for all to participate, use, enhance and compete by delivering value above a common foundation.

The enthusiasm of seen an alliance for an open source communications platform is tempered by the fact that the API and associated development tools are unavailable now. Unclear also is the language, or languages, supported for development.

However, first impressions are that Google has once more outfoxed the usual suspects and proposed an approach for the evolution of mobile communications in a manner and culture earlier responsible for the volume adoption of the Web, Apache, Linux and Firefox.

  • Google. Here is an entry in Google's blog re subject announcement.
  • BBC. Q&A article re proposed mobile platform at BBC.
  • API. Android's software development kit, SDK, is available here.
  • Nokia. Nokia does not rule out participating in the OHA alliance.

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