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Google bares mobile strategy: open platform

Posted: 07 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:handset designs? open platform? wireless applications?

Google Inc.'s long-awaited gPhone has been rechristened "Android," but a briefing on the device focused on the 34-member Open Handset Alliance Google has formed to drive open interfaces for wireless applications, rather than on a handset design.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said "you won't see a gPhone today, because the intent of this alliance is to show an open platform on which to develop applications."

Schmidt hinted that "if you were to build a gPhone, you could do it with the Android platform," but stopped short of providing any details of Google's hardware efforts. Android is named for a company that Google's director of mobile platforms, Andy Rubin, launched before it was acquired by Google.

The Alliance includes baseband and RF chipset developers such as Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments, Broadcom Corp., Intel Corp., Marvell Technology Group, Nvidia Inc. and Sirf Inc. Other members include real-time software specialist Wind River Inc. and wireless operators T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel Inc., China Mobile, KDDI, and NTT DoCoMo.

Handset developers ranging from Motorola to Samsung Electronics and HTC also are part of the alliance.

Notable in their absence were two U.S. carriers: AT&T, which holds an exclusive relationship with Apple Inc. for the iPhone; and Verizon Wireless, which has adamantly opposed Google's petition to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for open interfaces between handsets and networks for the emerging 700MHz services. Finnish handset maker Nokia was also missing from the list.

Details of the Android reference design were sparse, but Rubin said the first implementation was based on an ARM-9 control processor, and with drivers capable of supporting a variety of display sizes and types.

The Android platform will be offered through Apache open-source licensing programs, though its design is far less important than Google's work with Wind River in melding an open Linux kernel with an open mobile software stack. The Alliance will introduce a software development kit on November 12 for implementing services on top of the operating system.

The Open Handset Alliance is not the first attempting to drive Linux to the handset. Sony spearheaded the Consumer Electronics Linux Foundation two years ago, which gained little traction. In January, the Linux Mobile Foundation was formed by Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, Vodaphone and NTT DoCoMo.

When asked to compare the different alliances, Rubin said that "reality is one key difference, as we will have a software development kit issued within a week." He added that the kit launch will emphasize "an amazing user interface" and hosted user services to allow distribution of new applications through USB or memory card formats.

Other members of the Alliance include Aplix, Ascender Corp., Audience, eBay, Esmertec, LivingImage, LG Electronics, NMS Communications Inc., Noser Communications Inc., Nuance Inc., PacketVideo Inc., SkyPop, SoniVox, Synaptics Corp., The Astonishing Tribe, Telecom Italia and Telefonica.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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