Android's Goal: Be Open To Developers, The Industry, And Users - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
4/15/2008
10:25 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Android's Goal: Be Open To Developers, The Industry, And Users

Developer Robert Love spoke recently about the open source Android mobile phone operating system and SDK. He firmly believes the platform will deliver innovations in mobility. I don't disagree, but will the industry truly adopt the "open" model?

Developer Robert Love spoke recently about the open source Android mobile phone operating system and SDK. He firmly believes the platform will deliver innovations in mobility. I don't disagree, but will the industry truly adopt the "open" model?Love likened Google's Android platform and the Open Handset Alliance to the 1968 Carterfone decision, which opened telephone networks to third-party hardware and services. He thinks it will have the same disruptive, and beneficial, effect. Developers will be able to take the tools offered by the SDK and have open access to Android and the (hopefully) thousands upon thousands of devices that end up running the platform.

Speaking during a LugRadio broadcast, he said, "The goal of Android is to be open to developers, open to the industry, and open to users. Users don't need permission to install applications. Devices from Open Handset Alliance partners will not restrict users." In fact, in order to take part in the Open Handset Alliance, manufacturers, developers and carriers had to agree not to interfere with one another's -- or users' -- wishes to create, install, or modify applications on Android phones. This is laudable.

I am not going to hold my breath, however. We've seen a lot of hullabaloo from carriers and manufacturers alike about openness. Until Android is truly on the market, however, those commitments are anything but solid.

My guess is there will be a grace period at the start when everything will be great. Once Android phones are available, all the players involved will need some time to digest how the market reacts. Will there be a run on open handsets? Will the mass market even notice or care? Or will Android be the platform of choice for a small community of users who believe in the open model? These questions will need to be answered before the industry can react properly and adjust to accommodate Android in the market.

At the very least, Android promises to be an interesting alternative to existing platforms. How it will do outside of the United States compared with S60 is questionable, as Nokia's smartphone platform offers many of the same purported benefits of Android. It will be somewhat different in the United States, where the flexibility of S60 isn't as prevalent or widely known.

It will depend, in part, in the hardware and usability of the applications and services that are made for Android.

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