Google has unveiled its phone platform, Android. It's yet another Linux OS, freely licensed, and will appear in devices in the second half of next year. Google has signed up over 30 partners including Qualcomm, Motorola, HTC and operators including Deutsche Telekom for the "Open Handset Alliance". CEO Eric Schmidt described it …
Open or closed?
There have been few if any truly open Linux smartphones (there is Openmoko but that's neither HSPDA nor 3G). The manufacturers seek to lock them down to a greater or lesser extent.
In some cases the applications which can be run are restricted.
Often recompiling the OS is obfuscated or made near impossible. For example they might modify the kernel and then post no, incomplete or just plain inaccurate patches (in violation of GPL but they don't care).
Binary only proprietary device drivers and NDAed to hell and back hardware specs are also common. There are many existing handsets that can be reflashed to run Linux to a greater or lesser extent but lack of hardware specs for critical components make this very difficult.
This may be partly because Linux doesn't fit well with the business model of some mobile phone operators: "if you want the bugs fixing or the latest OS version buy another phone".
It will be interesting to see if this effort is yet another "closed Linux" or truly open this time.
"bringing the PC experience to mobile devices"
Joy. Sod that, I want someone to bring the phone experience to mobile devices. If I wanted a camera, I'd buy a camera. If I wanted an mp3 player, I'd buy an mp3 player. If I wanted a PDA, I'd buy a PDA. Why, when I buy a phone, does it have to be a half-arsed attempt at being a camera, mp3 player and PDA, with the phone part coming in a very distant last?
Joy! A phone that can give me a BSOD!
"Schmidt hinted at bringing the PC experience to mobile devices."
Verizon, LG, Nokia, AT&T, and Apple have done that. We now have phones that perform more poorly as phones year over year (e.g., the model replacing my old LG sounds like the audio is filtered through a couple of gallons of raw sewage), crash more-or-less regularly, have to be rebooted after adding a ringtone through any method other than the buy-and-download-from-the-signal-provider route, cost outrageous amounts to do anything at all (and even worse if you want to do anything other than receive SMS messages telling you your bill is ready to be paid), and are frustrating and aggravating to use.
So how about someone brings consumers the "customer service" experience on mobile devices? Oh, sorry, I forgot - customers are no longer important, since now the Government has made it legal to shaft them any way the Corporation wants to.
Bollocks to that
I just want cheap phone calls. No camera, no mp3, no SMS even. Just cheap bloody phone calls.
Bjarne Stroustrup said it first:
"I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone."
So there's been no progress in phones in, say, the last five years? Piffle.
Give me an iPhone anyday over the old Nokia I had a few years back. Moan, moan, moan. I'm getting sick of listening to whinging Luddites. Pack it in.
That's the point of open source
With an open phone, you are theoretically going to be able to make your own awesome MP3/video player, camera software, and PDA software instead of putting up with whatever crap some guy at Nokia threw together. You are also going to be able to fix the performance and UI bugs that seem to be plaguing phones more and more. (And by you, I mean anybody who works on open source stuff.)
My problem is with the idea that somebody is bringing the PC experience to a phone--that's exactly what I don't want. Smartphone OSs have all been market failures because they try to cram PC-like interfaces onto devices where they're completely inappropriate.
Please, for the love of god, I want a phone experience with my phone. Just because it's user friendly and can be operated with a joystick doesn't make it unsophisticated or bad.
But hopefully, with the software stack being open, somebody can replace the 'smart' interface with something more appropriate.
re: Bollocks to that
I just want cheap data. Camera, MP3, SMS even, and even cheap bloody phone calls will follow. Heard of VoIP?
Google - the next dot.
Hmm. First, Google head-fakes to get the FCC to apply Net Neutrality to the soon to be auctioned radio spectrum, making it unpalatable to the short-term minded telcos. Next, they develop a 'phone OS, then set it loose for polishing via the FOSS crowd. What could they be thinking of doing next?
It's still not clear what's on offer
We may as well stop wasting words until something concrete emerges.
The android web site is very poor. The characters in the 'making of' interviews are not only uninspring, but offputting.
The info talks about android being able to blend web and phone data so that when you are in the vicinity of a friend a "poke me" type request can pop up on each phone so that you can meet up and have an overpriced cup of coffee. Bloody hell , that's exactly what dot commers were pedling back in 1999 - LBG (location based guilt).
The web site also mentions a VM which optimises for low memory, slower performance devices. So if there is a VM, the "android apis" are not native.
It sounds very much like the JavaOS type of propostion. Nothing new, but then google have a good track record of doing things well rather than doing things first.
To paraphase erm, Mark Watson i think:
"PC on a phone? I can take a shit in dishwash. Doesn't make it right"
Looks like there'll actually be a phone to replace my HTC Athena when my contract is up in 12months, yeay. Just hope its relatively unrestricted and not chained too deeply to a provider.
Canonical has made great inroads into a Mobile Linux via Ubuntu.
And the next release of the OpenMoko Neo1973 could be what we've been waiting for in an open 3G-capable device.
I think the keyword here should be "convergence": of th Google Mobile, Google's OpenSocial project, a GREAT Ubuntu release (I'd like to see something like the 'gUbuntu' rumoured earlier), and truly open devices like the OpenMoko.
Google has been leading from the front-line in the adoption & development of OSS technologies, and wish them all the best of luck forward!
Overhyped new technologies as far as the eye can see
I've been consistently unimpressed with post 1990(ish) phone technology. Apart from talking and sending texts mobile phone tecnhology has been a gimmicky load of rubbish. Rubbish UI, rubbish cameras, rubbish web browsers, rubbish MP3 players. Oh and GPS is rubbish too (either on a phone or on a GPS only device) - I'd rather have a map or be lost. The only thing I think might be useful in this new fangled era of massive over-complexity for little reward is the idea of VOIP and SMS via WLANs to give us free calls and texts. Otherwise you can keep your new-fangled mobile O/S and your polyfilla ringtones and your colour 1 inch TV screens (all of which are utter utter utter utter rubbish).</rant>
Free OS for HTC's?
Can someone explain if this OS will be free to use on current HTC Handsets (Like the TYTN II) or just compatible with newer phones. The latter option sucks :(
Never going to be truly "Open" source
FCC regulations prohibit user configuration of software radios in case they are modified to operate outside their approved power-levels and frequencies.
This is the reason your Linux laptop needs ndiswrapper to run your Broadcom-based wireless LAN adapter.
"We may as well stop wasting words until something concrete emerges."
---Twm, have you never been to this website before?
as for a phone, i dont want a mulitmedia device....
i bought my first cell phone so i can speak to people when I was out and about! and recive a few texts.
thats still my requirement!
i dont need a poor quality photo or video phone to act as a on the cheap BBC or SKy news reporter?
nor do i need to carry loads of pictures of my family and friends around, i can rememebr what they look like as a i not senile!
i need a phones that boots in seconds and not minutes that my hellish N73 apepar to take!
I also wan a phone that doesnt crash halfway trhough a phone call or text message (ok, the latest firmware fixed that) - but you get the idea!
I want buttons that light up in the dark and I want to be able to
(a) hear people speaking to me on my phone whilst I am out and about
(b) I dont want to have to hold the phone at the correct angle and orintation in respect to the the earths posistion aroudn he sun and season to hear people!
who's damn fool freakin idea was it to put speakers in phones loaud enough so that the whole freakin street or train carraige can have the dubious pleasure of "snoppy-dogg-winkers-cent-aland" in all its tinny racket!?
while i am on that subject, ipod owners! - turn it down or buy some decent speakers you ignorant train riding bustards
You just don't seem to get it. The old phones had great reception and sound, these new phones are shite! They get poor reception and bad sound quality, all to make them smaller or to pack in extras nobody ever uses.