Aided by creative media types, Google has officially claimed the post (from itself - although Apple is a close second) of the most amazing hype generator in the history of the world. For months, everyone from Wall Street professionals to kindergartners have been anticipating Google's answer to the iPhone - what the media has reffered to as the almighty GPhone.
Finally, on November 6, 2007 the big announcement was here. Like kids on Christmas we all ran to open our news feeds to see the bright, shiny phone of our dreams. Anticipation was building as we scrolled through the various headlines to find what we had all been waiting for...
And there it was - "Google has officially announced that is is launching (drum roll please)............
AN OPEN SOURCE PROJECT!"
So now it is known. Google's much-anticipated GPhone is actually an open source operating system project meant to make it much easier for Google (and other developers) to get all of its applications that work on the web to work on phones. If that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will.
The SDK (software developer's kit) will be available to developers on November 12, 2007 so that corporations and coding cowboys alike can start writing applications that will run on Android.
Here is a fun little video of the primary engineers behind Android talking about the project.
To the average consumer (to the extend an average consumer was paying attention), this announcement is probably a bit underwhelming - like expecting a go-cart for Christmas and getting an engine kit under the tree and hoping with a lot of work you can drive around by the second half of 2008 instead.
The reality is that this announcement is big and it will definitely change the playing field in the mobile industry. Carriers have long maintained a walled garden where they have control over exactly what does and does not work on their devices. The operating systems and the applications written for them are proprietary so if a software developer wants to write an application for a phone that could be easily downloaded and used by consumers the task is nearly impossible.
Theoretically, an open operating system based on accepted standards could be embraced by carriers so that all developers could write software applications that could be downloaded by all interested cell phone users. This would create a vast new array of opportunities for innovation and would absolutely result in consumers receiving more value over time. In the absence of an open standard, innovation is slowed and progress is stifled.
In reality, Google's project is far from an immediate panacea for the lack of openness and standards in the mobile market. AT&T and Verizon have not signed on as supporters of this project which means that 52% of the mobile market is either doing something different altogether or taking a wait and see approach.
There is no way to predict exactly how this will shake out but I will make the prediction that a hardware device labeled a "GPhone" produced by Google will not be released anytime soon. Such a move would be disruptive to the Open Handset Alliance's charter to get all carriers, handset manufacturers, and software developers to adopt the standard.