Google unveils “Android” mobile phone platform

No GPhone… for now, Google says

After months of speculation Google has made its mobile phone plans official: the Web giant on Monday unveiled Android, an open platform for developing mobile phones with a Web experience Google promised will be as good as surfing on a desktop Web browser.

Google officials pointedly said they were not announcing the so-called “GPhone,” but said Android would be the perfect platform for developing a future Google phone.

“It’s incredibly important to say this is not an announcement of the GPhone. We’re hoping thousands of mobile phones will be powered by Android,” said Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google.

T-Mobile and HTC will both release phones powered by Android in the second half of 2008, the companies announced in a joint conference call with Google.

“Our current plans are to launch a device with robust Internet and Web 2.0 services for T-mobile customers" using Android, said René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile. “With a platform like this we see the opportunity to create a better Internet experience for our customers in the mobile environment.”

Some have speculated that Android will favor Google applications and services, though the company said it will be made available to developers within one week under what Google claimed will be the most liberal open source license ever.

Android is a mobile “software stack” consisting of an operating system, middleware, user interface and applications. Google said the platform will be perfect for developing mobile Web applications such as games, social networking, and programs that integrate audio and video.

Qualcomm and Motorola also joined Google in announcing both Android and the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational group with 34 members dedicated to promoting Android.

Android and the Open Handset Alliance is a response to development challenges such as mobile software complexity, increasing cost and building user interfaces, Schmidt said. Collaborative effort is crucial, he said.

“Long term fragmentation will stifle innovation in this industry,” said Ed Zander, Chairman and CEO of Motorola.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin likened Android to the open platforms – such as Linux, Python and Apache - he used with colleagues to develop Google’s core search technology.

“Just 10 years ago I was sitting in a small graduate student cubicle, together with my fellow students and Larry [Page] and so forth. … All those pieces and many more allowed us to do great new things and distribute it to the whole world,” Brin said. “That is what we’re looking at today. We’re developing a very open system, we’ll distribute all the code.”

The name Android comes from a vendor Google acquired in 2005 to bolster its wireless strategy. Google partners said they’ve been working on the project announced today for the past year.

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