Google announces open platform for mobile phones

Google yesterday unveiled its Android platform for mobile phones, putting to rest months of speculation over whether the Internet search giant was developing a so-called “G-phone.”

Instead of offering up one flashy device such as Apple’s iPhone, with the introduction of Android, Google wants to give mobile operators, device manufacturers and developers all the software needed to run a mobile phone through an open platform. According to the company, an open platform will accelerate the pace at which new and innovative mobile applications are delivered to consumers.

As part of the Android initiative, 34 companies, including T-Mobile, HTC, QUALCOMM and Motorola, have formed the Open Handset Alliance with the goal of developing technologies that will lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services. The Android platform is the first step in this direction, a fully integrated software stack comprising an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications.

Android will made available under what Google is calling “one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses,” which it thinks will give mobile operators and device manufacturers more freedom and flexibility in designing products. As for consumers, they should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008. The Open Handset Alliance will be releasing a software development kit for the platform in about a week.

Prior to the Android announcement, there had been much speculation in the media about the exact nature of Google’s plans for the mobile space. The “Wall Street Journal” last Wednesday reported that Google was discussing with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel the possibility of selling what had been dubbed the “G-phone” though Verizon. In addition, a photo purporting to depict a rendering of the “G-phone” was circulated around the Internet.

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