Google made a major announcement today, but it was not, as many in the industry had expected, a gPhone announcement.
“Despite all of the very interesting speculation over the last few months, we’re not announcing a Gphone. However, we think what we are announcing—the Open Handset Alliance and Android—is more significant and ambitious than a single phone. In fact, through the joint efforts of the members of the Open Handset Alliance, we hope Android will be the foundation for many new phones and will create an entirely new mobile experience for users, with new applications and new capabilities we can’t imagine today,” said Andy Rubin, Director of Mobile Platforms, at the company blog.
The mythical gPhone was alleged to be in development for as many as two years, and was rumored to include built-in Wi-Fi, among other things. But, as Steve Horowitz, Engineering Director, said in a video release at the Open Handset Alliance site, “There is no such thing as a single gPhone. What we’re doing is enabling an entire industry to create thousands of gPhones.”
In other words, if you want a gPhone, go build it yourself.
The Android open platform for mobile devices includes an operating system, user-interface, and applications without any proprietary hoops to jump through. The goal, says Rubin, is to spur mobile innovation.
“We hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities,” said Rubin.
As for the impact on the world of Wi-Fi, there seems ample reason to believe that this is a good thing.
“There’s a feeling among some folks that Wi-Fi-access capability will be a given with any Google-influenced phones released,” says Bay Area-based muni wireless expert, Craig Settles. “This leads people to speculate that muni wireless will benefit because these phones will create demand for the muni service.”
The Open Handset Alliance is a collection of more than 30 manufacturers, carriers, developers, and users that includes heavy-hitters T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola, and Qualcomm. Its Android Software Development Kit will be available next week (11/12).
Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.