Google unveils free cell phone software package

“Confirming its long-rumored foray into the mobile market, Google said Monday it is developing a free cell phone software package so the Internet search leader can more easily peddle ads and services to people who aren’t in front of a PC,” Michael Liedtke reports for The Associated Press.

“While the announcement ended months of speculation about the Mountain View-based company’s cellular ambitions, the first phones equipped with Google’s so-called “software stack” still won’t be available until the second half of 2008,” Liedtke reports. “And Google won’t be making the phones, nor does it plan to stamp its prized brand on the devices. Instead, it will work with four cell phone manufacturers who have agreed to use Google’s programs in their handsets. Consumers will have to buy a new phone to get the Google software because the bundle wasn’t made for existing handsets.”

“Even with its market debut months away, Google’s software looms as a significant threat to other mobile operating systems made by Microsoft Corp., Research In Motion Ltd., Palm Inc. and Symbian, which is owned by Nokia Corp. and several other major phone makers

“So far, Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., HTC and LG Electronics Inc. have agreed to use Google’s software in some of their phones,” Liedtke reports. “They are among a Google-led group of 34 companies that have formed the Open Handset Alliance. Other key players include major chip makers like Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Broadcom Corp. and Nvidia Corp.”

Full article here.

Amol Sharma and Kevin J. Delaney report for The Wall Street Journal, “The Mountain View, Calif., Internet company said the new cellphone technology it is creating with its partners – which it calls Android – would enable faster development of innovative cellphone features. The platform includes several layers of software for phones, including an operating system, a user interface and applications.”

“Google’s strategy of cooperating with multiple handset maker and operator partners to develop what Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said could be ‘thousands of different phone models’ differs starkly from that of Apple Inc., which developed a single iconic mobile device – the iPhone – that consumers now associate with its brand,” Sharma and Delaney report.

“Google’s long-term impact in the wireless industry may not be on the design of phones, but the economics of how they are sold to consumers. If the company, as expected, gives away its new mobile software to handset makers for free or at least a steep discount to existing operating system providers, the savings could be passed on to consumers. In addition, people familiar with Google’s plans say the company one day hopes to partly subsidize the cost of phones by showing targeted ads to users,” Sharma and Delaney report.

“Motorola’s participation in the Google project is striking, given how the company was burned by Apple when the iPhone launched. Motorola worked with Apple to release a music phone called the ROKR in 2005, but the iPhone dramatically upstaged that device,” Sharma and Delaney report.

Full article here.

Quentin Hardy reports for Forbes, “Google’s kicking in not just the operating system, but also an Internet browser designed for mobility (adapted from Apple’s Webkit), a calendar, an address book, maps, e-mail and access to Google’s online payments system, which can be used to buy things via phones.”

MacDailyNews Note: WebKit is an application framework included with Mac OS X v10.3 and later (and available as a software update for v10.2.7 and later) which is the basis of Mac OS X’s Safari web browser. Webkit is an open source project, combining components from both the K Desktop Environment (KDE) project and Apple. More via Wikipedia here.

“What Google gets in return is more real estate for selling ads. Ninety-nine percent of Google’s revenues come from ads, either the ones it puts next to free Internet-based services like search and e-mail, or through syndication on third-party Web pages. The bigger the Internet gets, Google executives figure, the more pages there are for ads and the more people will need search (with more ads) to find anything,” Hardy reports.

Full article here.

28 Comments

  1. I laughed at
    “If the company, as expected, gives away its new mobile software to handset makers for free or at least a steep discount to existing operating system providers, the savings could be passed on to consumers”

    Yeah, right, I’m sure they will.

    And even if the savings were passed on to the consumer, I’d rather pay the extra few dollars to not have my phone run by a company planning to suddenly start showing me “targeted ads” instead of just letting me do what I want and see what I want. Can you imagine if someone tried to sell a computer OS that would just randomly show you “targeted ads” instead of just working?

    Unless the OS is really dramatically better feature-wise, interface-wise, etc., I don’t see this being that popular… but then, maybe the customers won’t have a choice.

  2. There’s a business model for everyone in the mobile sector. I think this one may save Palm. With an OS and partner like Google, they might develop something the consumer would actually want.

    For sure it spells the end of Windows CE/Mobile. Ballmer is probably practising his, “Free? Who’d want a free OS from a search engine company. They have no experience in this field. I’d rather have gazillions of people using Win Mobiloe on gazillions of handsets”l, and as usual, he’d be totally clueless.

  3. sure, Motorola was burned by receiving millions of dollars in sales on a continually number one selling phone, that may be down to two or three in rankings now, ooh, how unfortunate to make a great profit. Plus, phones are free or cheap now, this simply adds ‘free’ with a layer of slimy adverts on top. This benefits me how?
    Life’s too short, get a mac, and –
    SAY NO TO COMMERCIALS!!!

  4. “Motorola got burned by Apple?! Motorola pitched themselves onto a bonfire with a crappo product – and they did it all without any help from Apple.”

    Agreed, Apple had nothing to do with the silver turd know as the RAZR.

  5. We should support Google and its efforts, in the same way we should be supporting Microsoft’s efforts with Zune. It is very likely that iPod Touch would not have had WiFi, had there not been the first iteration of the Zune with (totally useless, crippled, MS version of) WiFi.

    There is one thing, however, that is not mentioned here, and that is the core of the mobile telephony today, which hasn’t been addressed until Apple and iPhone, and that is the power of carriers. There is more than one reason iPhone is different from other devices. A major reason is the fact that AT&T;has no part in deciding what features go into iPhone, how it is designed and how it works. Many phone makers have in the past designed great phones (relatively speaking), with plenty innovative features, only to have them totally crippled by carriers. Nothing indicates that this would change with this Google operating system. As long as the carriers control what goes onto the phone, what kind of browser, what types of applications, what levels of connectivity and other functionality, this OS has the same chance at succeeding as had Symbian (or Palm, or, worse, Windows for Mobile).

  6. I see lots of names of handset makers for this mythical Google device, but did anyone invite the TelCos to the prom? Up till the iPhone, the TelCos decided what software and features worked on your phone in the US, NOT the handset makers.
    If Google thinks that the Telcos are going to open a gushing revenue stream for Google just because they so graciously supplied a “free OS”, well, let’s just say, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  7. Apple helped Motorola from what I can see. I remember a survey in which the Razr with iTunes was voted as the best music playing phone (pre-iPhone), beating out the LG Chocolate and a couple SE handsets. Had it not been for Apple, Motorola wouldn’t even be on that list.

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