RealTime IT News

An Android in Every Pocket? That's Google's Plan

BOSTON -- Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Does the same hold true for building a better smartphone?

That's what Google is trying to prove. But the leader in online search is already having to defend its strategy behind backing the open source Android mobile platform, which saw its first compatible handset -- the T-Mobile G1 -- hit the market just this week.

Speaking here yesterday at Mobile Internet World in Boston, Rich Miner, Google's general manager of mobile platforms, mapped out the company's reasoning behind its open source dive into the complex world of mobile operating systems. Yet after his presentation, an audience member challenged the apparent conflict between Google's avowed dedication to open platforms and T-Mobile's two-year contractual lockdown on purchasers of its G1 phone.

Miner said that it came down to simple business: T-Mobile subsidizes the cost of the phone to make it cheaper for consumers, in return for a contractual commitment during which it can recoup the costs -- a typical arrangement among U.S. carriers.

But Miner said Google's real motivation lies in its being in the information business -- not the phone manufacturing business, and repeated the company's oft-cited goal.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," he said.

The result may still be the same, however: Google is doing whatever it can simply to get Android devices into the hands of consumers, increasing the overall universe of mobile Web users and the number of users of the Google apps and services that are deeply embedded in Android

"This is about hundreds of phones, all based on Android, and penetrating that marketplace," he said earlier during his keynote.

Of course, putting Android on as many different devices as possible and encouraging mobile developers to support it will likely have a big payoff for the dominant force in Internet search as well as an emerging force in cloud-based apps. But Miner described Google's chief motivation with Android as a response to a lack of innovation in the mobile space.

"When someone controls a platform, they stifle innovation," he said, without naming names. This makes it hard "for other people to innovative in that value chain."

"No one can completely control the [Android] platform," he added.

Google's gameplan

As Google makes its case for its approach to forcing its way into the convoluted, multi-billion-dollar mobile industry, there's a lot at stake -- but also a number of trends that the company sees working in its favor.

Chiefly, Miner said the world is changing, with more people than ever using mobile phones as their primary Internet device.

Page 2: Embracing the open