Like a number of my colleagues here at CNET, I had my ear pressed to the phone yesterday morning as the members of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), including Google, Motorola, and HTC, revealed their plans for Android, a new open platform for mobile devices. I'm not here to recap all the details of the event here--CNET News.com has a comprehensive story on that--but rather just to jot down some of my thoughts.
Looking at the big picture, I welcome today's news. I think it's a really interesting move for all the parties involved, and I certainly feel that the Android project will lead to more innovative products--both handsets and applications. More importantly, it gives the consumer more power and choice when it comes to buying cell phones and smartphones. But it also raised a lot of questions. One of the first ones that popped into my head is how will Android affect the other mobile operating systems--Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, BlackBerry, and Apple. Will they suffer? Compete head-to-head? Or will they join the Open Handset Alliance?
During the press conference, one reporter asked how Android differs from all the other operating systems and I can't recall who responded but the answer was that Android is an open platform and open to third-party developers. Well, OK, but so does Symbian. Symbian really prides itself on this fact, but it hasn't enjoyed widespread adoption here in the United States. Part of the problem is that there are only a limited number of Symbian smartphones available on this side of the pond. Nokia and Sony Ericsson use Symbian, but for whatever reason, U.S. carriers have been reluctant to pick up any of these models. Sure, you can still get them but you often have to pay a steep $400 to $700 for an unlocked version. I don't know about you, but I don't have nor do I want to drop that much money for a cell phone. With this limited visibility and adoption rate in the States, I think Symbian will take the biggest hit. Sadly, I think the Google association alone gives Android more name recognition than Symbian.
And the others? Well, Palm just seems like a sinking ship, though I know it still enjoys a loyal following. Palm/Access needs to breathe some new life into the OS in order for it to keep afloat. I also noticed that the OHA kept focusing on the potential Web browsing capabilities of Android, which is great, but also leaves me to wonder how it will handle corporate e-mail, personal information management, and productivity apps--something Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices do very well. And CNET News.com's Tom Krazit has an interesting take on how Android will (or won't) affect the Apple iPhone.
Without knowing what Android will entail, it's hard to tell how it will shake things up, but like I said before, I welcome it. I think it can only benefit the consumers. The next few months should be interesting, and I can't wait!