Google unveiled their long rumored wireless strategy, code named Android. Also known as the Open Handset Alliance, Android comprises of several leading mobile wireless heavyweights, including T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, and Motorola. Noticeably absent are either of the big two U.S. mobile carriers, AT&T, and Verizon. According to the Open Handset Alliance press release, “This alliance shares a common goal of fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today’s mobile platforms.” In other words, we intend to shake up the mobile wireless industry.
The heart of this shake up lies in Android, a new mobile wireless operating system platform. Android is “…a fully integrated mobile ‘software stack’ that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications.” It will be based on the open Linux platform, and hopes to empower its own extensive developer network, which in turn will create thousands of Android applications for the mobile experience.
Developer toolkits for Android are expected to be available next week. Handsets with the Android platform are expected to hit the market in mid 2008. Rather than create and manufacture a single Gphone, Google is creating this platform with their partners, in the hopes of creating a pervasive ‘GPhone’ ecosystem. “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,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
This is a complete departure from Apple’s iPhone strategy, which aims to control distribution. Google views the cell phone as a bigger opportunity than the PC is for its leading search and advertising models. There are over 3 billion mobile phones in use globally, and much more of the world will access the web via a mobile phone in the future than currently do today via the PC. The idea of taking Google’s value proposition mobile has Wall Street salivating. The Washington Post speculates that Google’s stock has risen 40% (recently trading at $726) in the past couple weeks in anticipation of the release of their mobile strategy.
The competitive implications are numerous. First and foremost, the Android platform will be free. That’s a direct shot across the bow to Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian, and other current mobile operating systems, all of which have handsome licensing fees. Since Android is free, it should conceivably lower the cost of the handsets which utilize it. Carriers that plan to deploy Android handsets may then gain competitive advantage over those who don’t because the “coolest” new handset will probably be cheaper than the latest Blackberry, iPhone, or Windows Mobile device. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile were the two most prominent U.S. carriers who are part of the Google coalition. The end result could prove to be quite compelling, and will certainly offer interesting competitive implications.