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Google's Open Source Mobile Platform 199

Posted by kdawson
from the gphone-by-any-other-name dept.
As expected, today Google took the wraps off of the gPhone (as the media have for months been referring to the rumored project). Google is "leading a broad industry alliance to transform mobile phones into powerful mobile computers," and will be licensing its software to all comers on an open source basis under the Apache license. (The Wall Street Journal's Ben Worthen demonstrates a miserable grasp of what "open source" means.) Google's US partners include Nextel and Sprint, but not AT&T nor Verizon. Phones will be available in the second half of 2008 — not the spring as earlier reports had speculated. News.com's analysis warns that Google won't take over the mobile market overnight, though they quote Forrester in the opinion that Google may be one of the three biggest mobile players after several years of shakeout.
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Google's Open Source Mobile Platform

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  • But will it run li... perhaps it will!
    • "This sig is copywritten by the owner and may not be copied in any form without expressed written consent."

      Um... I don't think you understand copyright [wikipedia.org]. It has to do with rights, not with writing. Unless you are trying to make a clever pun...

      -b

      • by afabbro (33948)
        Not to mention the phrase is usually "express, written consent". Or perhaps thatskinnyguy writes a sonnet as his expression of written consent.
      • I tried to fit the disclaimer (and the word sig) for the National Football League in a sig but it wouldn't fit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by greg1104 (461138)
      And it should also be easy to build a Beowulf cluster of these phones.
    • But will it run li... perhaps it will!
      Seriously, though, the real question is which Linux will it run - custom, or based on something familiar? And using what toolkit - GTK or Qt? etc. etc. TFA and the website have no details yet. Perhaps on the 12th we will know more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:23AM (#21250793)
    Goatse is announce its Open Sores Mobile Anus Platform featuring all of your favorite Slashdot editors

    coming to a town near you soon!!

    sign up now [slashdot.org]
  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:34AM (#21250867)
    For the past 3 days I've been trying to modify and mess with my Motorola V3M Razor and it's a glitchy hell to try and do. Any phone that's more open than the current phone Nazis keep them is fine with me. All those dollar per ringtone and wallpaper people can shove it. Oh and especially that chick on late night TV commercials with the weird accent telling me I can win like $32,000 if I unscramble the word and text it in. I hope Google tracks her down and gets her deported. Now some of you may be asking, "Do you have anger issues with cell phone carriers and their associates" to which I say, "Don't you?"
    • by m2943 (1140797)
      For the past 3 days I've been trying to modify and mess with my Motorola V3M Razor and it's a glitchy hell to try and do. Any phone that's more open than the current phone Nazis keep them is fine with me.

      You simply bought a bad phone. If you want an extensible or modifiable phone, you can already get a Palm, Nokia, or Windows Mobile GSM phone; those are quite extensible. The advantage of Android over those existing systems is that it's probably easier to program because it gives you a full set of desktop
      • Curious - exactly what APIs will you get with Android that are unavailable to Windows Mobile developers?
  • DUPE (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:43AM (#21250937)
    Let me be the first to say DUPE [slashdot.org].

    Come ON! I guess Slashdot's speed at getting the original post on the front page threw you guys off. Usually these things come at least a day after everyone else.

    (Not that I don't prefer Slashdot. I flame because I care.)
  • Is great. Phones using the gPhone system will be a security nightmare for corporations because, SURELY, will be virus/trojans/malware for them. Have to love how informed and objective is that opinion. Is not like there are no virus already for smartphones (some that were in the wild probably?) but a lot of technologies dont need to have so easy for that kind of malware. Maybe he is generalization about windows, that probably is the only thing he can think of about PC, and that should be already a nightmare
    • by bhmit1 (2270)
      I think we can all agree his opinion is pretty useless. He's trying to suggest the iPhone is more secure, yet the problem there is that if there was a virus, you wouldn't be allowed to fix the problem. And considering they've already found ways to unlock them and run apps on them, a virus is sure to come one day. If we are going to look at the impact an open phone has, we can review the results of Palm and Windows Mobile and see just how far off from reality he is. You get security problems by writing a
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Since the iphone has a wide open security bug that apple still hasn't fixed it's far less secure than other phones right now - visiting the wrong website could have you making a reverse charge call to nigeria.
  • Boo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:54AM (#21251011)
    It's still just a client device. Somehow I was hoping for a much bolder stroke from google, like if they'd bought up that new spectrum, thrown in their own fiber backbone, and used it to change the cellco/customer relationship fundamentally. So long as they're working through the same old networks, the US cellphone industry will stay pretty much as-is.
    • by afabbro (33948)
      Somehow I was hoping for a much bolder stroke from google, like if they'd bought up that new spectrum, thrown in their own fiber backbone

      Sorry, the IPO money is gone.

  • I for one... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrLizardo (264289) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:58AM (#21251035) Journal
    ...welcome our Android overlords.

    Good. With that out of the way, I have to say I'm really looking forward to seing what Google can do in terms of getting functionality that has typically been the domain of "smartphones" that typically go for more than $200 w/ contract into the domain of phones that range from free to $50 (again w/ contract). With the minimum requirements set at an ARM9 @ 200MHz, this platform should allow open development on a huge new range of phones. I've already seen people earlier today making dire predictions about how Google is not going to be able to compete with the iPhone or how they prefer phones based on Symbian...and I think these people are completely missing Google's whole plan. I'm sure that initially phones based on Android will fall closer to the smartphone price range, but I can't help but think that eventually Google has to be aiming at the free-to-$50 phones. The "just a basic phone" market is an area in desperate need of a unifyied platform. Between lack of openness and the lack of a properly standardized Java implementation development for a wide range of low end phones is pretty much intractible. If Google can get Android onto low-cost phones *and* ensure "write once, run anywhere" between them I think they will have all the developer support they need. And since they already have the ears of the carriers (T-Mobile, Sprint, etc) they've already ensured they have a way to get this on shipping phones.

    Why do I think low end phones are so important to these companies in the open handset alliance, when they don't have the profit margins of smartphones or "feature-phones"? Simple: Emerging markets. For billions of people around the world it is too expensive or impractical to own and maintain an Internet connected PC. It may be because of upfront cost or it may be a lack of Internet infrastructure in their area. For those people a phone will be their first (and maybe only) connection to the Internet. Right now the browsing experience on basic phones ranges from useless to unbearably slow and there is an impressive *lack* of easily accessible third party applications. If someone could change that it would add incredible value to that class of phones. So what's in it for Google? Making sure that their page is the first one a couple billion people see the first time they get on the Internet is probably worth it.
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:10AM (#21251125)
    So I suppose instead of hot spots if you have a gPhone you look for gSpots....
  • open but for who? (Score:3, Informative)

    by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:20AM (#21251193)
    Google have been running (on a small scale) something conceptually similar in Japan with one of the major carriers -- KDDI -- for a while now. KDDI have integrated google search as the default search system, and google mail as one of the "official" mail options for that service. In effect there is a KDDI co-branded Google.

    As far as I see it, Google mobile platform is the same thing inside an OS package. The platform will be "open" to carriers and makers who are participants of the Google alliance. However, nowhere in the Google materials have i seen a commitment to make the phone open to the outside developers. Nor does it make any sense for them to open it.

    Depending on how it is rolled out, we may see some sources, but likely we'll never have a chance to apply a patch to the OS actually in the device, or build an application outside of whatever sandbox they put in the OS. There will likely be APIs and widgets tied to the google servers and services, but hardly much freedom beyond that.

    Obviously that is very good for google, if they pull it off. It is less obviously good for the carriers or the makers, but the carriers will eventually agree to this in exchange for revenue-sharing, and because they have nowhere to go, and the makers will be arm-twisted by the carriers. The end result may be that only the "google internet" will be available on the mobile phones that use android. Sorta like an enhanced WAP, imode or EZ web.

    I see no problem with this if one is very-very happy about storing their data on a google server and accessing it via the google phone OS. But I wouldn't call it free in any of the senses of that word we're accustomed to on /.

    But I guess we'll see what it really is when they release the SDK.
  • I don't think they'll take over the mobile market overnight, either.  I think it'll take at least a few weeks.

    After all, who would want an open standard phone where you can install your own software and not be charged a buck for a text message or a ringtone?  Who the fuck would want that?
    • by imemyself (757318) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:10AM (#21251807)
      There are already plenty of phones that you can install your own software on and not have to pay for ringtones (I can't believe that people are stupid enough to do that). For example, I have a Treo (Windows Mobile) - I can install any software I want on it, and easily create my own Compact .NET Framework apps for it if I want to - it doesn't have to be signed by the carrier or anything. I believe I can use any MP3 file as a ringtone, though I just use one of the MIDI's that came with it. Song ringtones annoy the hell out of me. Text messages aren't free - but that obviously has nothing to do with the phone and isn't going to ever happen. You'll always be paying a service provider for text messages - whether its per text, for unlimited text messages, or bundled in with some plan.

      If Google is really successful it'll be because they are able to lower the price of smartphones from several hundred dollars to where the cheap toy phones (that don't let you install software/ringtones/etc) currently are. While I do not know how much of the cost of smartphones is for the OS, I highly doubt that a free OS will make smartphones that much cheaper. Maybe they'll subsidize some of the cost through AdSense or something, though I personally would hate to have a phone that forced me to look at ads.

      More competition is a good thing though, at the very least it'll hopefully drive prices down a bit.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      After all, who would want an open standard phone where you can install your own software and not be charged a buck for a text message or a ringtone? Who the fuck would want that?

      So you'll be buying an N800 then? By your argument it should have taken over the market by now.

      No need to go that far though.. the symbian SDK is a free download, the dev certificate is free and I've never met anyone that's paid for a ringtone.. even the cheap payg phones can be persuaded to use free ones.
  • Did you miss the whole Sprint buying Nextel thing? They are Sprint/Nextel. Is the point to list them twice so it seems like more wireless carriers are on board?
  • OpenMoko? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supine (94843) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:37AM (#21251281) Homepage
    What does this mean for OpenMoko?
    • What does this mean for OpenMoko?

      As it stands I will still buy from them as soon as they put out a working phone with wifi. If google had a desktop linux distribution (say a google branded ubuntu) I doubt I would be using it. OTH new applications deployed on the google platform can only be good for other linux based phones.

      I don't think it is going to hurt them, I just wish they would release something which works.

      Phones using the google OS need not be more open than any other linux based phone.

    • by chrisd (1457) *
      It is worth pointing out since we are going to be releasing a ton of code here that openmoko can absolutely adopt it and incorporate it into their work. That's a nice thing about open source. :-)

      Chris

  • Minor Correction (Score:3, Informative)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @01:49AM (#21251359) Homepage
    "Google's US partners include Nextel and Sprint..."

    Sprint and Nextel is one company. Sprint acquired Nextel.

  • by tm2b (42473) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:12AM (#21251503) Journal
    I dunno... it really strikes me a lot like a number of the software standard alliances that Sun and the other Unix vendors tried to put together or participate in over the years. They always full apart because nobody's interests aligned in any lasting way and everybody had a bad case of NIH ("Not Invented Here").

    I'm not saying none have worked, but I am asking honestly - how many technology projects with even half as many partners have actually succeeded in producing a stable platform? It seems to me that the truly successful open source projects have always been independent of any corporate interests - Linux succeeded in making a standard Unix-like platform where years of Dec / Sun / IBM / HP alliances failed and the business interests that have been successful with Linux have done so by learning to support efforts where there was already community leadership instead of trying to dictate a direction to the platform. Netscape did okay, I guess, but that wasn't a big business alliance and hasn't exactly been an exemplar of efficient platform production.

    I'm just not seeing that this is a big deal, except that everybody thought that something much more exciting was actually going to happen.
  • by gig (78408) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @02:27AM (#21251593)
    Both Nokia and Google have announced iPhone-killers and neither of them is going to ship one unit before the second half of 2008. Microsoft will need at least that long to shrink Surface down to the size of a Zune.

    Nokia is promising touchscreens and multimedia and Google is promising open source and the Web. Like we already have in our iPods. And they're going to get that to us real soon now. Like in another year from now.

    It shows how miserable Palm has become that Google didn't even buy them. Not even for the name.
    • Yeah, because Nokia - well, everyone knows they can't build a phone to save their life, right? Let's see. Camera: iPhone, 2MP, N95, 5MP. Storage: 8GB apiece. Web: iPhone, Safari. N95, based on Mozilla. Accelerometer (that 'gee whiz, doesn't every device need this' that fanboys rave about)? iPhone, check. N95, check. Display? iPhone, 320x480, touch sensitive, N95, 320x240, no touch.

      Shall we continue? 3G? iPhone, uhh, no. N95, UMTS, HSDPA. GPS? iPhone, no, N95, yes. MMS? PTT? Ability to use your music as ringtone without paying money to the empire? Java? iPhone, no no no no no. N95, yes yes yes yes yes.

      A few other neat features of my N95. Tethering? Oh so cool. Especially when your phone can act as a wireless access point. OpenGL hardware acceleration? Yes, you read me right.

      But no mind, you just go on being a raving, frothing at the mouth Apple fanboy, oblivious to the RDF.

      • by p0tat03 (985078)
        I've used an N95 (which I gather from the marketing is Nokia's super-phone, of sorts), and I'm not impressed. Great features like you say, but completely underutilized. All that 3G radio gooey goodness and the phone UI is still cumbersome and a pain to use. This is very typical of Apple vs. their competition. The competition can cram as many features as they want into a neat little device, but Apple will still win by usability alone. Can't say I don't like that, since IMHO technology has always been far too
      • by sootman (158191)
        The devil's in the details. This map app [expansys.com] doesn't look too hot. And lacking a touchscreen (and virtual keyboard) my guess is it'll take a LONG time to do any amount of text entry with less than 20 buttons. Predictive text doesn't help much when it comes to names, email addresses, URLs, city names, etc.

        But no mind, you just go on being a raving, frothing at the mouth Nokia fanboy, oblivious to what most people in the world actually want. (Note the proper use of 'oblivious.') We'll compare sales numbers in a y
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      >Like we already have in our iPods.

      "Our" ipods? Not everyone is silly enough to spent 350 dollars on a music player. Hell, you're even comparing apples and oranges. An ipod that can do wifi is useless where there isnt any wifi. Hell, it doesnt even run any apps not approved by apple.
  • You will have to forgive me for it being 7 AM, I may not be as irrational as normal ;)

    How did this guy get a job as writer for the "Business Technology" of "The Wall Street Journal" ? It's fairly obvious he doesn't know anything about technology. Open? I do not really expect the gPhone to be open to consumers like a linux PC is open to it's user. A bit more customizable then Windows Mobile, likely, but not anywhere near OpenMoko. The point it seems he is trying to make is that the phone is open in the way t
    • I Not that I think Windows Mobile is the best thing since sliced bread, performance/power wise it's way lacking compared to Symbian, but nevertheless, it is a really nice platform.

      You can't just drop a PC style interface onto a mobile, as Qtopia and Windows mobile try to do. It doesn't work. It sucks. There isn't the screen space to waste the way they do, there isn't a keyboard there isn't a mouse.

      Symbian and the iPhone are successful because they don't try to fit an inappropriate interface to the devices.

      Obligatory OpenMoko disclaimer; sure OpenMoko may be the shit, but the device simple doesn't fit my hardware needs. It's so horribly two years ago.

      It's something which has the potential to revolutionise particularly business applications and processes.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        Symbian and the iPhone are successful because they don't try to fit an inappropriate interface to the devices.
        I'm pretty sure Windows mobile is currently more successful than the iPhone is and in my opinion, the iPhone's current success is largely due to Apple's brand. If Nokia or any of the other big mobile phone companies created the exact same phone instead of Apple, there definitely wouldn't of been such a 'hit'.
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          If Nokia or any of the other big mobile phone companies created the exact same phone instead of Apple, there definitely wouldn't of been such a 'hit'.

          "WTF? No MMS, No 3G, Crappy battery life, Crappy camera. Nokia have lost it."

          Yeah I can see that.. :p
  • Open Source to Who? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DavidD_CA (750156)
    Google definitly gets /. props for mentioning the "open source" buzzword, but my question is: open to who?

    I think a lot of Google/Linux fanboys right now are probably foaming at the mouth with visions of linux running on a phone that they have root access to, installing apps whenever they want, downloading music for free, and giving the middle finger to the carriers.

    I don't think that's what Google is doing here. I think Google is creating an "open source" operating system, open to the carriers to do what
  • by BESTouff (531293) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @03:52AM (#21251979)
    Sure, the platform will be open for the partners, but not for the developers.
    First, look at the guys forming the "alliance": Broadcom, NVIDIA, Wind River, who are all acting towards closing linux (Wind River was even a vocal opponent to linux some times ago). Furthermore, look at why they choose Android's licence [openhandsetalliance.com]:

    Why did you pick the Apache v2 open source license? Apache is a commercial-friendly open-source license. The Apache license allows manufacturers and mobile operators to innovate using the platform without the requirement to contribute those innovations back to the open-source community. Because these innovations and differentiated features can be kept proprietary, manufacturers and mobile operators are protected from the "viral infection" problem often associated with other licenses.

    There. You can dream all you want about an open platform, like your traditional Fedora or Ubuntu desktop, but that won't be it. Go for Openmoko [openmoko.org] instead.

  • by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:01AM (#21252285) Homepage
    I was wondering what had prompted Apple to suddenly go out and publish the iPhone SDK. Now I get it - they don't want to risk letting developers flee to Android and miss potential killer apps.

    Now let's see what comes out of Android. It can't be any worse than most current phone OSs anyways.
  • Ben Worthen - "That's my fault for writing sloppy". And another irony meter explodes...
  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:02AM (#21252563) Homepage Journal

    OK, OK, I know we're only supposed to speculate here without actually knowing anything. But if you want to know about it, it's here [slashdot.org]. It does use a Linux kernel (how then can it be 'Apache Licence'?). Above the kernel it is running a custom virtual machine, which doesn't seem to be a JVM. 'Android', as well as being the name of the project, is the name of a company bought by Google last year which specialised in PDA operating systems; The SDK will be ready for download on 12th November [openhandsetalliance.com].

    Before they were Android, the people behind the product were Danger, and produced a phone/PDA called HipTop [wikipedia.org], which was largely Java based.

  • by simong (32944) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:36AM (#21252701) Homepage
    I have been thinking about the use of Linux on smartphones and one of the conclusions that I came to, rightly or wrongly, is that there is a major licensing problem in the interface between the GPL software in GNU/Linux and the hardware and software employed in a telephony module, to the point that there is a fear that GPL software touching a telephony module would cause the telephony software to become unacceptably open, either from the point of view of business or regulatory authorities, and this is why there is no POTS option for Nokia's Internet Tablet range, and indeed why the iPhone is locked down. OpenMoko has broken this taboo, and will be a major advance in opening the telephony market *if* it passes FCA and European certification - there is no guarantee of this.
    To this end I believe that the Google telephony platform will, in its early stages at least, be a GNU/Linux OS running on an ARM processor or similar with a closed interface to the telephony systems, and with Google Gears and a Java for Mobile Telephony, which may or not be the current Mobile Java, as the developer interfaces. There would still be no direct access to the phone module, and only the only open network access would be over wi-fi unless Google manages to obtain its own pieces of the spectrum across the world or can form deals with phone providers... hmm, does that sound familiar?
    Right now in the UK for example, I can only see one provider even considering allowing the sort of access that Google would want, and that's the one that has no long distance infrastructure of its own and has just introduced a Skype phone that works over its network, partially to reduce its interconnect costs.
    Then again, as most European 3G licences will be about halfway through their life when the OS becomes available, and with the licence holders finally coming to terms with the fact that uptake is being delivered by access to data rather than blocky film clips, the promise of a share of Google's revenues might be enough to encourage the phone providers to open up - a little at least.
    This is all empirical but it's what the current state of telephony looks like from the view of an interested spectator. Feel free to correct me.
  • So, no iPhone for me because I'm not on ATT (Verizon has much better coverage where I am, and first and foremost I need a phone to make calls). And now no Google software-powered goodness, either? Good grief. Ugly retarded phones, and no glitz features at all - way to go Verizon!
  • And I wouldnt care to have service from them anyway. Oh, and point of fact, "Nextel and Sprint" are the same company now.

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