There is no Google phone, but what Google revealed Nov. 5 could be even bigger.
Google unveiled a complete mobile phone stack under an open-source license as an alternative to proprietary platforms from Microsoft and Symbian.
Aimed at the roughly 3 billion mobile phone users around the world, Android, as it is called, is a Linux-based mobile software stack, including an operating system, HTML Web browser, middleware and applications. Google will make a software developer kit for Android available within a week to allow programmers to begin testing it.
The stack was created under the aegis of the Open Handset Alliance, an alliance of technology and wireless carriers that includes Google, T-Mobile, eBay, Qualcomm and Motorola as just a handful of the 34 founding members.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt joined by the CEOs of Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, and Motorola, said on a conference call that alliance was created to make it easier for software developers to build applications on top of a mobile platform.
Schmidt noted that the lack of a collaborative effort has made it a challenge for developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers to work together and build better mobile products.
To read more about the alleged Google phone, click here.
This has resulted in poor, often unwieldy user interfaces that make accessing the Web via mobile phones a chore; a mobile software stack that assuages the usability problem, combined with Google's search capabilities and applications, has the potential to be extremely successful.
Andy Rubin, Google's director of mobile platforms, said on the call that the browser-based user interface for Android will be no different in quality to that of a desktop Web browser.
Fostering Android under the alliance, Schmidt said, will give consumers better user experiences than what they get from today's mobile platforms, which include the market-leading Symbian OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile OS.
Android, which is expected to appear on handsets in the second half of 2008, will pave the way for Google to optimize applications such Google Maps and Gmail on Web-enabled devices such as smartphones.
Programmers will be able to access it through the Apache version 2.0 open source license, which has no restrictions. Handset manufacturers and wireless operators will be able to customize Android to create new mobile gadgets faster and at a lower cost.
Read more here about why people say they would buy a Google phone.
"The Android platform is being made available under the most liberal open source license given to mobile operators or anyone ever," Schmidt said.
Schmidt, citing Google's policy of not pre-announcing products, repeatedly refused to admit that Google was developing a phone, but said that Android would be the perfect platform for a Google phone if one were to be built.
Moreover, while the questions focused on the notion of a single Google phone, Schmidt said he envisioned "many, many different types of mobile devices" that are very different from what's on the market today.
Responding to a question about how Google's applications, services and advertising will work with Android, Rubin said that contrary to the speculation "you won't see a completely ad-driven cell phone based on this platform for some time."
Rubin also declined to answer whether or not Google asked Nokia (which uses Symbian), Microsoft, Apple and Research in Motion, which make competing mobile operating systems, to join the Handset Alliance.