Google today said it has teamed with T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and others on Android, an open platform for mobile devices designed to take a hard charge at Microsoft's and others' share of the mobile operating system market.
The Android platform, talked about by press and analysts for weeks, includes an operating system, middleware, user interface and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008, Google said in a statement.
The vendors said they are shepherding Android through the Open Handset Alliance, which is designed to foster innovation on mobile devices and give consumers a "far better user experience than much of what is available on today's mobile platforms."
The Android platform will be made available under an open-source license to give mobile operators and device manufacturers freedom and flexibility to design products.
The Alliance will release a software development kit next week to provide developers with the tools to create applications for the Android platform.
Handset manufacturers and wireless operators will be free to customize Android and will have complete access to handset capabilities and tools that will enable them to build more compelling and user-friendly services.
A conference call is set for noon EST.
The news is pretty much on par with a lot of the media coverage from Friday, but I believe in the grand scheme of things, this announcement is much broader in scope than we all thought.
But don't take it from me. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in the statement: "Today's announcement is more ambitious than any single 'Google Phone' that the press has been speculating about over the past few weeks. Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models."
We expected mobile software, an operating system sure, and applications to follow. But Google has roped in a lot of significant players in not just the wireless space, but the high-tech space on the whole. Android already has a serious ecosystem, so it's not as if Google just rolled out a mobile OS as if it were a typical product introduction.
This is a serious push at Microsoft OS, but it will be interesting to see how Android eventually stacks up with Symbian, which corrals 70 percent of the mobile OS market for smart phones.
What remains to be seen is how open this Open Handset alliance will be. There are a number of superlatives thrown around in the release. Words such as "innovative" and phrases such as "unleash the potential" trumpet the news, but don't forget we won't see a phone until next year. Google and these vendors have a lot of work to do between now and then.
These are the founding members: Aplix, Ascender, Audience, Broadcom, China Mobile, eBay, Esmertec, Google, HTC, Intel, KDDI, LivingImage, LG, Marvell, Motorola, NMS Communications, Noser, NTT DoCoMo, Nuance, Nvidia, PacketVideo, Qualcomm, Samsung. SiRF, SkyPop, SONiVOX, Sprint Nextel, Synaptics, TAT - The Astonishing Tribe, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Texas Instruments, T-Mobile and Wind River.
More details will follow in a story for eWEEK after the conference call.