Google launches Android. Now what?

Monday was G-Day as Google finally made public the worst-kept secret in wireless, announcing the development of Android, a Linux-based open software platform for mobile devices. Google also will lead a broad industry group, dubbed the Open Handset Alliance, formed with the stated 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 34 members of the Open Handset Alliance include HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, which will reportedly manufacture Google OS-based handsets for commercial release sometime next year; operators Sprint, T-Mobile USA, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and China Telecom; chipmakers Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments; and related firms including SiRF Technology Holdings, Marvell Technology Group, Nvidia, Synaptics, Skype-owner eBay and Nuance Communications. (Somewhat conspicuous by its absence is Verizon Wireless, which was rumored to be in discussions with Google last week--but as I suggested a few days back in our sister publication FierceMobileContent, a VZW/Google deal always seemed remote at best, anyway.)

The Open Handset Alliance turns upside-down the conventional mobile revenue model--Google will virtually give away software and services in exchange for income derived from targeted mobile advertising efforts. In its official press statement, Google promises the Android platform "will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products." As early as next week, the Open Handset Alliance will issue its first SDK.

The gauntlet has officially been thrown. Google is in effect challenging developers to create their most cutting-edge, consumer-friendly mobile applications, promising total access to handset capabilities and tools. After all the complaining over the iPhone and Apple's Draconian approach to independent development, Google is unleashing a platform created specifically to support and reward innovation from any and all directions. What more could a developer realistically ask for? To paraphrase the familiar adage, G-Day is the first day of the rest of your life. -Jason