Android's 20 percent solution

With the imminent release of Apple's iPhone 3G grabbing all the headlines, Google is doing its best to make sure its Android OS doesn't get lost in the shuffle. After shooting down rumors that internal delays would force Android to remain under wraps until 2009, Google is taking the offensive, promising handset makers who adopt the platform will enjoy a drop in manufacturing costs as significant as 20 percent. Speaking Monday at the CommunicAsia event in Singapore, Google's director of mobile platforms Andy Rubin said that software represents roughly 20 percent of a handset's manufacturing expenses, so embracing the free, open-source Android OS would effectively remove those costs from the equation. Supposing those savings are passed along to operators, that would also mean lower handset prices for consumers as well.

Rubin also took the opportunity to respond to comments made by Symbian research chief David Wood, who at last week's Handsets World conference in Berlin predicted Android will end up fragmented into multiple incarnations. "People have been predicting the success of open source for some time [but] fragmentation is easy, and integration is hard," Wood said, citing the costs of debugging, the loss of intellectual property and licensing costs due to "numerous upper layers." Rubin's response: Fragmentation is a natural outgrowth of the open-source paradigm, because operators can just hire their own internal development team instead of waiting on the newest release of a closed platform. "If that fragmentation is what [Wood] is talking about, that's great--let's do it," Rubin said, adding "Carriers who lock down phones will not be chosen by consumers because they're locking themselves and their devices out of the innovation loop." Rubin's talking a big game--can Android back it up? -Jason