Google has announced Android – a new open standard for mobile phones, including their operating systems and applications, with the backing of 33 other companies including Motorola, Samsung, T-Mobile, HTC, LG and Qualcom.
The move doesn’t feature the much-hyped Gphone – instead the new platform should enable companies to create thousands of Gphones all using the same open, interoperable format.
The grandly-named Open Handset Alliance promises to give customers "a far better user experience than much of what is available on today’s mobile platforms".
Google says that an open standard will encourage more collaboration between companies and make it quicker and easier to produce compelling new applications for mobile phones. The first phones using the Android platform are expected to go on sale in the second half of 2008.
It is likely they will feature a range of Google mobile applications including Search, Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube.
"This partnership will help unleash the potential of mobile technology for billions of users around the world," said Google chairman and chief executive Eric Schmidt.
"A fresh approach to fostering innovation in the mobile industry will help shape a new computing environment that will change the way people access and share information in the future."
"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."
Conspicuously absent from the roll call of the Open Handset Alliance are Nokia and Sony Ericsson – both of whom use the Symbian smartphone platform.
Apple was also AWOL – it believes its iPhone already delivers the ultimate user experience – albeit on a platform that locks out any third-party development.Microsoft also has its own investment in the Windows Mobile platform.
For Google, the main benefit of pushing an open platform is to bring its lucrative context-sensitive advertising technologies into the vast global market for mobile phones.
"It will open the mobile phone to do things that people now do on their PCs," said Todd Greenwald, a financial analyst with Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco to Reuters. "It should position Google to be an early leader in the mobile advertising market."