Open Source Mobile: Google’s phone, the ultimate technological club

Yesterday a broad alliance of leading technology and wireless companies announced the collaborative development of Android, the new open platform for mobile phones by Google.

The Open Handset Alliance, that’s the name of the most promising technological club after the GSM MoU club agreement, lists already 34 members. Among them names like Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Nvidia, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, China Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, NTT DoCoMo, LG Electronics and HTC.

ExpectationsGreat expectations, by deVos

From the press release:

This alliance shares a common goal of fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today’s mobile platforms. By providing developers a new level of openness that enables them to work more collaboratively, Android will accelerate the pace at which new and compelling mobile services are made available to consumers.

So Google is not interested in making money on software (like Microsoft), or hardware (like Apple). As usual they want to make their money on services. As reported by Wireless, according to Opus Research, mobile advertising spending in North America and Western Europe will reach a combined US$5.08 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $106.8 million at the end of this year.

The Open Handset Alliance describes itself as “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices” aiming to develop technologies that will cut the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services. But Google knows very well that mobile innovation basically has been hampered by “device fragmentation“, and android is the ultimate answer to this specific issue.

Despite Android’s license (apache 2.0) enable providers to create a locked-down phone, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, said:

It’s both possible and highly unlikely because the more constraints the manufacturers put on the platform the less beneficial it is.While a license would allow that kind of behavior … it’s unlikely you’ll see [a locked down] scenario.

Is he right? Let’s see what happened before.

Lessons from the ‘past’:the Symbian case

The Symbian promise was aimed at a similar goal, when it was established in UK as a private independent company in June 1998. The original shareholders were Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia In October 2003 Motorola withdrew from Symbian as a shareholder by selling is stake to Nokia and Psion, becoming a simple licensee.

I had doubts on the Symbian technological club since early 2003, as I wrote in an article. The idea was good, but the implementation was quite poor, since even the most important shareholders were adopting incompatible Symbian’s dialects.

While I agree with Savio Rodrigues saying that is a very pragmatic decision, I believe that platform differentiation is a two fold process of securing individual vendors’ businesses and at the same time prevent lock down scenarios.

Related posts from other sources:

Google’s big mobile splash: Handicapping the winners and losers – Larry Dignan describes how Google’s move could reshape the wireless industry

Google phone won’t pry open wireless business model – Dana Blankenhorn colors himself as skeptical thinking to the North-American duopoly

Getting all warm and Googley over open source – Alec Saunders puts Google among what he calls “strategic open source” firms.

Reinventing the Linux phone, Google-style -  Matthew Aslett compares the different open source mobile initiatives.

Technorati Tags: Open Source Mobile, Google strategy, android, technological clubs, symbian , SavioRodrigues, EricSchmidt