08 November 2007

Thoughts on the G-Phone

Google's much anticipated wireless strategy was finally publicly revealed this week, after much speculation and anticipation. Google's approach was inspired by Tim Wu's "Wireless Carterfone" proposal (which I have blogged about earlier). Unlike Apple's iPhone, Google is proposing an open software platform (Android) that is open and will run on a variety of hardware. The platform, which is based on the Linux kernel, will be developed and maintained by the Open Handset Alliance. According to OHA:
Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone's capabilities providing users with a broad spectrum of applications and services. With devices built on the Android Platform, users will be able to fully tailor the phone to their interests. They can swap out the phone's homescreen, the style of the dialer, or any of the applications. They can even instruct their phones to use their favorite photo viewing application to handle the viewing of all photos.
It is interesting to note that the carriers Sprint and T-mobile were quick to endorse this initiative. They are, after all, the smallest of the "big four" in the US. Is this an attempt to ride on Google's coat-tails (following the boost that AT&T's earnings had after their exclusive deal with the iPhone)?

The responses of industry analysts have been mixed:

  • Om Malik wrote "This is one massive PR move, with nothing to show for it right now, and it seems like there are other unknown reasons (Facebook ad platform launch perhaps) for the motivation here. No phones till second half of 2008 — in our ADD culture that is a lifetime."
  • Kent German wonders if T-Mobile and Sprint will hue to the spirit of openness once the phone ships.
  • Scott Anthony concluded that this is not a disruptive innovation. He writes that "[c]arriers have already placed big bets in the anticipation of earning service revenues from advertising and other future applications, which appears to be Google's plan as well."

  • According to this item, ""I have yet to be convinced that Google's mobile strategy will create a big dent in the industry," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Jordan Rohan, who added that Yahoo appears right to focus on distribution deals of its services instead."

It seems that Android is a platform that will compete in substantial ways with Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, PalmOS, and the Blackberry operating platforms. So why would developers and phone manufacturers be interested? According to this article:

  • "Unlike with other mobile-platform providers, developers working with Android pay no licensing or other fees. They also will be able to sell their applications through a Google-created online marketplace without sharing revenues with the search giant. Google will make money on the ads served through the phone's browser, according to Google."
  • "By not having to pay licensing fees to Symbian or Microsoft, cell-phone companies will save about 10% of their costs, according to Google."
What about carriers?
  • How will it help carriers be more profitable in a business that is rapidly commoditizing?
  • Large carriers like Vodafone have already made it clear that they want to reduce the number of operating platforms that they support so that they can roll out applications and services more quickly. Does Android help them? Will this affect the other platforms?

Update (2007-11-13): This item contains some videos that show prototypes of a phone running Android.

1 comment:

sira said...

In my opinion, Andriod will not make the other platforms out of the market. As seen in many technology markets, for example, in PC OS market, though there is Linux, people still use Windows and Mac for some reasons. I think each platform will need to show their uniqueness in order to attract people to buy and pay loyalty to the brand. Moreover, there is always inconvenience when users try to communicate from a platform of a company to the others.
So, I am not so confident with google's strategy that it will succeed as much as their other applications. There are many other factors that will affect the preference of the customers.
Personally, I do not think that this Adroid itself will give much profitable impact to the carriers because customers will still use the other platforms. On the other hand, if there would be any great conflict between each platform, it would give a headache to the carriers instead.
In the Vodafone case, like I mentioned, I do not think that Vodafone can do what they expect otherwise they just cut down the options for their customers.