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Insanely great news today. Google announced Android and the Open Handset Alliance.
Not earth shattering for those who have followed the rumor mill. The biggest news is actually that they are offering what the rumors said! That, and the long list of Open Handset Alliance partners.
Why is this great?
Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications.
Don't think the built-in address book is any good? Don't think that SMS, MMS, email and belongs in separate in-boxes and not connected to the address book? With Android you would be able to replace the application on your phone - just like you can on your PC. A totally open platform was the rumor and the Open Handset Alliance has promised to deliver on it.
Wired: User-friendly, Tired: Mobile Web 2.0
One very interesting thing to note is that Google is not going down the RIA route. No web applications. This jives with what they have done before, The current Gmail mobile is a native or Java ME (depending on handset). Current mobile web-browsers are just not up to delivering a satisfactory user experience, and it does not look like the Android browser will be either, at least not in its first incarnation.
The joint press release states:
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.
The press release is sprinkled with references to users and consumers, and barely no mentioning of operators. In fact, the press release mentions the word "user" 16 times. User-friendly is the new Thin. Lets all rejoice! :-)
Will it ship?
Four handset manufacturers have committed to deploying handsets in the second half of 2008. Two of them, Samsung and Motorola, have joined just about every Linux alliance under the sun. They are both going to ship phones with 3-4 different Linux versions next year if they are going to keep their promises to everybody. They are obviously going to have to break some hearts. Is Android the OS to end all mobile Linux woes? Yes it is. Open software initiatives is notorious for producing half baked barely usable software. It needs a benevolent dictator who funds the effort and pays people to lift a product from nerd stage to a usable product. Google has the money and the will to make this happen.
The swedes are everywhere it seems
Without brilliant engineers we would still be living in caves. But without brilliant designers, we would long to go back to the caves (substitute elegant English wording here).
This is exciting times for mobile software development. The phones are getting touch screens and all sorts of motion sensors enabling new interaction paradigms based on gestures. It was fun to see the "Introducing Android" video. I expected the traditional Silicon Valley menagerie of T-shirt clad uber-geeks and hip turtleneck middle management. But there it was, a couch full of Interaction Designers and User Experience people! (All European. Scandinavian even, most of them.) The current mobile flagship product Gmail mobile is not exactly a usability poster child. (Maybe I should write a blog post about it). I am looking forward to see what those guys can come up with!!