2008 Year in Review: The launch of Android and the open-source operating system wars

The news: As this timeline makes plain, the open-source, Linux-based Android operating system from Google got kick-started back in 2007. When Google announced the OS, it also launched what it called the Open Handset Alliance, with founding members including HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, all of whom pledged to one day launch devices running on Android.

In January, open-source mobile tech firm a la Mobile debuted what it said was the first demonstration of Android applications. In February, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Freescale, Marvell, NEC Electronics, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments all exhibited Android-based prototype or proof-of-concept devices. Then, in March, rumors swirled that HTC would make the first device running on Android, code-named the "Dream."

Then, on Sept. 23, at a stylish rollout in New York, Google, HTC and T-Mobile USA unveiled the T-Mobile G1, the first commercial phone running on Android. When it announced its anemic third quarter numbers, Motorola announced it would have an Android phone out by the end of 2009. In early November, Huawei followed suit and announced it intended to make Android phones in 2009. In early December, mobile software developer TechFaith Wireless Communication Technology and smartphone manufacturer QIGI announced the launch of the i6-Goa, China's first commercial Android phone. Then, Kogan, an Australian company, launched an Android-based phone. Google also released a version of the G1 specifically for developers so that they could test their applications. And finally, on Dec. 9, Sony Ericsson, along with 13 other companies, joined the Open Handset Alliance.

Why it was significant:
The launch of an open-source OS for mobile phones galvanized the wireless world, issuing a challenge to an industry which had been dominated by Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Research In Motion's proprietary BlackBerry OS and Symbian. Android  promised a whole new class of phones and signaled Google's emergence as more than just an Internet giant. With handset heavyweights like LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson onboard, the initiative is certain to shake up the handset market going into 2009. The question was not necessarily whether Android would change how customers viewed and personalized their mobile experience, but how.