Yesterday, Google's announcement of Android headlined the blogosphere, as much for what it was as for what it wasn't. For us, Google's announcement took us a few steps down memory lane, back to an era when software appliances were better known as turnkey systems. Thanks to Moore's Law, it is taken for granted today that the …
Say It Ain't So ...
"So, it's intolerable that the same country that produced all this has trapped its citizens in a backward, stifling system when it comes to the next great technology platform, the cellphone."
All we need now is someone with Google's courage to take on the DVD regionalization, and the other 50,000 restrictive practices that survive. Mobile phone tie-ups are hardly unique in the Land of the Free ... or any place else!!
Why the history lesson ?
I fail to see why the author spent so much effort trying to fit this narrative into the historical context of turnkey systems. The issue has nothing to do whatsoever with 'turnkey'. Sure, mobile phones are turnkey (generally). So what? Android won't change this much. This is about an alliance to create an open operating system for mobile devices, which is unprecedented in our industry. /That/ is the news.
This whole story could be compressed down to the following sentence: "Android is not the Gphone, but an open operating system development kit for a previously closed mobile platform." Wouldn't commentary be more enlightening from that starting point?
Mobile phone standards...
are already in use in Europe. We have the gsm standard for line switched communication, with the grps standard for packet switched mode. All new technolgies are just extending this stack. You can choose between multiple platforms, from old proprietary ones to open linux based ones. Most carriers also sell datacards. They are gsm phone modem cards for pdas and laptops (and lately even desktops). The interfaces are standardized, most os-es can use these devices and you can use whatever network you want.
My first phone that could reach the internet was an old ericsson t20 and it was made around the turn of the century. Even that old phone had a standard and open interface. I even run my own stuff on it.
A system I put together a few months ago used an x86 based linux system and a standard gsm modem for sms/voice/video/internet traffic. All I had to do was to buy the parts and put them together. (no soldering or any engineering skill required for the assembly) Imho it's ok that google wants to make a mobile platform, but imho any standard linux (debian in my case) would do just as well and I prefer to use opera as my browser, even under linux and on a mobile device. As long as you can get hardware that supports the os of your choice you can make yourself any device you need.
Android is fully Linux because Android /is/ a Linux distribution released under the GPL (and Apache) licensing models so (unlike symbian, for example) everything is completely open.
And not just the kernel but everything right up the stack from drivers to applications. As you may understand, the demands of the mobile platform are different to PC or desktop platforms, so Android has a whole slew of optimisations necessary for a mobile platform; for example: Voice, graphics, video codecs, messaging, databases, smart card integration, optimised browsing, camera interfaces; essentially everything that is needed to run on a piece of handset hardware to release a competitive, high-end smartphone to market.
Hope this clarifies.