Mobile: a challenger in Google Android?

You’ve probably heard tidbits here and there that Google is going to release their own phone – informally dubbed the “gphone” or “google phone”. What’s really going on is that Google built an open source operating system called Android. Through an alliance with hardware and carriers, there is an initial device being built by HTC and will run on T-Mobile’s network.  HTC is the the Taiwanese company with U.S. headquarters in Bellevue that make some very nice hardware (but often have the not-so-user-friendly Windows Mobile installed on them, like the Dash, Shadow, and Wing.)

Now there are some interesting pieces to the story that have been developing over the last few months. Some is unconfirmed (e.g. analyst speculation, fanboy lust).  I highlight some here:

  • the new phone is tentatively called the “Dream“. It will be a little smaller than the iPhone, but slightly thicker. FCC filings show that it will have a touch screen with haptic (vibration) feedback AND a slide out qwerty keyboard (sweet.)  Also has all the popular radios: wifi, GPS, fast data (i.e. HSDPA). For lots of deets, check out Engadget’s Android post roundup.
     
  • tentative release date Oct-Nov.
     
  • they have their own app store called Android Market - similar to the Apple iPhone app store, but some say better and more extensive. There are already some amazing apps announced (thanks Robert B for the link.) Google sponsored a competition for devs to create killer apps before launch – to the tune of several million dollars. The community responded.
     
  • there is talk that the gphone will be very web and search centric, and will integrate with Google’s suite of online apps. There is also talk that it will support Exchange, but probably not in the initial release.
     
  • and there is also talk that the gphone will be cheap and, perhaps, supported by advertising somehow. Cheap is nice, but with cheap always comes some other tradeoff like being stuck with your carrier for many years. Not clear on the pricing of the device or data service as of yet.

So what does this all mean? For one, I think we will have some true competition for the iPhone – not just in the device, but also in the ecosystem surrounding the device. This is really what helps makes a mobile device take of – great integration with, and extension of, your world. One missing piece (that I’m sure is being thought about as you read this) is media content – will there be an accompanying “gtunes” music store? My bet is yes (even though at this point T-Mobile is the only major carrier in the U.S. without some sort of online music/media store.) Perhaps the gphone will let you simply use whatever service you want, like AmazonMP3.  If you’ve heard anything about this, please shout out…

Second, when they get Exchange up and running, it might provide true competition in the corporate space (probably not right away while they figure out all the security/SOX compliance stuff and work on their 1-2 sucker punch on blackberry/windows mobile.) It also might have mass appeal, great usability and low price point that would make it appealing to the masses. As such, it might be a viable option for your own company. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is cool and I love that there are more and more of them popping up here at work. However, the gphone may turn out to be another great option (that doesn’t feel like you had to compromise.) Even though the iPhone provides a really great user experience, it is also fairly locked down – the gphone may represent a true open-source mobile device with great developer community support.

I’m excited to see how the synergy continues to develop between Android, device manufacturers, and the growing community of developers…

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