Google made the official announcement today that it will launch an open source mobile operating system called Android. This is named after the company Google acquired in 2005, whose former founder, Andy Rubin, is now Google’s director of mobile products.
With this is also the formation of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of industry carriers and device makers including Motorola, LG and SprintNextel. Nokia is noticeably missing from the who’s-who list of players, though. The role of the consortium will basically be to adopt and endorse the open source operating system and promote Android-based innovation and application development.
This will really open things up in the mobile world and is a true game changing event. Third-party application development is currently stifled because of carrier control and the lack of an open uniform development platform. Android will change this.
This also joins Apple’s similar move to release its software development kit (SDK) to the third-party developer community which will similarly enable a lot of innovation. Google will get a jump on Apple, however, with a Nov. 12 Android launch, which precedes Apple’s February SDK release.
Mobile local search will see a great deal of that innovation and many other implications of these moves were explored in our post last week. There is also a great deal of information, framed in usage and revenue data, in TKG’s recently released mobile reports: U.S. Mobile Advertising Forecast 2007-2011 and Mobile Market View.
I’m on an analyst call with Google now, where Sergey Brin has made a surprise appearance to convey the drivers for this mobile platform and the general merits of open source as a means to innovation. The good that it’s done in the PC environment is particularly salient and currently untapped in the mobile environment. But with mobile, lots of factors are converging and, to use an overused term, we are reaching a “tipping point.”
“Ten years ago as a graduate student, Larry [Page] and I were working with Linux-based open standards. All those pieces and many more allowed us to do great things and distribute them to the world,” said Brin. “That is what we are looking at today. We want to allow people to innovate in the same ways in mobile devices. And mobile phones today are more powerful than the ‘big iron’ computers we were using in those days.”
This opportunity and its forthcoming realization has a lot to do with mobile use, device penetration, application demand, and the game changing events such as Google’s and Apple’s outsider influence and recent moves. Again, much of the data surrounding this opportunity is explored in a deeper way in the aforementioned reports, and past blog coverage, and we’ll continue to follow up with more analysis. This is big.