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Google Gang Unveils Open Source 'Gphone' Platform: Android

Apple, Microsoft and Nokia aren't members

Google made its first public move today to put its brand on the mobile sector, announcing an Open Handset Alliance of 33 partner companies committed to advancing an open source platform called Android. Google's partners, gathered apparently over the last year, include T-Mobile, Motorola, Sprint Nextel, China Mobile, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Telecom Italia, eBay and Telefonica as well as HTC, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia, TI and Wind River.

Obviously Apple, Microsoft and Nokia aren't members.

In a canned statement Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who sits on Apple's board, said, "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."

Schmidt wouldn't say one way or the other whether Google will ultimately introduce a Gphone of its own, but said that if it did it would be based on Android.

Google is anticipating making money off ad-based revenue-sharing arrangements with the carriers though it admits there won't be a completely ad-driven cell phone around "for some time."

The phones themselves aren't expected to hit market before the second half of next year, but to pave their way Google and its allies have promised to release an early access SDK on Monday November 12.

Android, licensed under the business-friendly Apache license, is a fully integrated mobile software stack consisting of a Linux operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications and promises to lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services.

Google and company were reluctant to discuss the exact technology or cell phone characteristics ahead of next Monday but made much of its full-power HTML browser, which is supposed to deliver applications to cell phones exactly the way they're delivered to PCs and Macs. They won't have to be "shoehorned in," Schmidt said.

Apparently any Android phone will need a minimum 200MHz chip.

Handset makers and wireless operators are supposed to be free to customize it and developers are promised complete access to its capabilities and tools.

The consumer is supposed to reap more compelling services, rich Internet applications and easier-to-user interfaces not to mention cheaper - though fancier - cell phones, creating smartphones that are under $200.

Google also suggests that Android will underlie devices as yet undreamed of.

It is Google's position that mobile developers and operators have been stymied in innovation and time-to-market by the lack of a collaborative open source effort.

Google shares, which just passed $700 a few days ago, were teasing $730 during the noon conference call announcing the alliance then fell back.

Android gets its name from the two-year-old start-up Google acquired in August 2005 that has been developing the platform from the ground up under its captain Andy Rubin.

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WBT News Desk brings you all the latest and greatest news from the world of wireless business and technology, including breaking news, technical articles and feature stories written by the world's leading experts of mBusiness.

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