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Comment: Gphones need to be more open

Posted: 20 Nov 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile software  browser  Gphone  mobile systems 

There's no doubt the first phone to use the Google Inc. Android mobile software is open in new and significant approaches. But the T-Mobile G1 mobile phone also reminds me of how Microsoft Corp. bundled its applications and browser with Windows to leverage its dominance in one market to get a leg up in another one.

My hope is that companies making Android-based phones for 2009 and beyond take another big leap in the direction of implementing this platform as something truly open.

As I said in a first look at the device, the Gphone does a great job of giving free and open access to the full Web, rather than some carrier's narrow-walled garden of a network. The software is also available as open source code, and third party developers can get their applications on to the phone without going through carriers.

Those are three excellent milestones in mobile openness that are igniting fires of innovation in cellular networks worldwide.

"This whole concept of openness is resonating through the industry and carriers are adopting it as part of their marketing," said Rich Miner, founder of the start-up Android that is now part of Google.

Miner added that some carriers such as Verizon Wireless actually use a VP of open systems. "But open is a loaded term," he noted.

Indeed, my experience with the G1 handset suggested this particular implementation, design by HTC Global Services Inc. with support from Google, is in some significant ways less than fully open.

At the start, I was asked to supply Google account information as the easiest way to set up the handset. Because I use Blogger, it was convenient to comply.

I quickly got to the home screen to find a search bar and a link to maps both of which take you exclusively to Google's services. A touch of another menu button takes you to Google's Gmail service. However, Microsoft's widely used Exchange Mail client is not supported in the device.

"Google is consumer-focused so we support things like Post Office Protocol and Gmail," said Miner. "I know there are many third parties working on virtual private networking and Exchange integration for business email users," he added.

"The concept for this particular phone is that it would be a best-in-class Google experience," he noted. "This will be the first of hopefully hundreds of phones and Android is completely open," Miner said.

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