It turns out that while it may take a village to raise a child, herding the village to launch an open-source mobile phone platform, called Android, is a bit trickier. While Google has denied that the Android launch date is slipping, suggesting that it is "very, very close" to completing Android, the Wall Street Journal reports that instead of shipping in the third quarter of 2008 it may slip to the fourth quarter or even to early 2009.
There is no evidence that Android won't be able to gain momentum over time. But wireless carriers throughout the industry are confronting challenges as they seek to customize the Android software -- which includes an operating system and programs that work with it -- to promote their own Internet services. Some handset makers are taking longer than they thought to integrate Android, test it and build custom user interfaces to meet carrier specifications.
Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone developers suggest that writing applications for the iPhone is easier because of familiarity with the Mac OS X platform. Google has a shorter history in catering to developers, yet has been much more accommodating to outside developers lately. I suspect that Android is serving as a fascinating laboratory for Google as it figures out how to engage development communities.
As such, it may well be that Android will be delayed, but the long-term benefits for Google will be worth it.
When I was at Lineo, we launched the industry's first Linux-based "smart handheld" platform for the Sharp Zaurus. While we provided the operating system, we worked with a range of partners, including Trolltech, Opera, and others to deliver the complete solution. Bluntly stated, it was a pain, though the end result was good.
Google is wading through that "pain" now, but will take away from the process a better understanding of the nuances of mobile and how to engage a development community that it can influence but not control. In the process, we'll get a new, open, stronger member of the mobile market.
Some things are worth the wait.