As the most recent rumors and speculation have said, Google’s Gphone is not a single device or even a group of Google specific devices. In the most basic terms, Google is actually creating an operating system for phones that is not tied to a phone manufacturer or cell phone carrier. It is very much similar to the way that Linux can be installed on a computer made by Dell or HP or Acer, etc. and connect to the internet using AOL or Comcast or Time Warner, etc. While a phone using Google’s may look different on the outside (just as many Windows PCs do), it is the software on the inside that makes it a “Gphone.” So you won’t see one distinctive looking Gphone appearing like the iPhone.
What Google announced today was the Open Handset Alliance. From their site:
“Welcome to the Open Handset AllianceTM, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Together we have developed AndroidTM, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.”
I think there is a big analogy to be made here between how computers and “the internets” have evolved and how the cell phone industry is evolving. I think the cell phone industry now is somewhere around where the computer industry was in about 1996. Remember when so many people were tied to communities like AOL or CompuServe? Access to the internet came bundled with so many features in those communities. The company you used to access the internet had a big influence on what part of the internet you used and how you used it. Now we get our internet access from one (invisible) source, email from another, music from and other and online video from yet another. There was no “always on” internet access for the home consumer. Dial-up plans were available in tiered levels and yes-sometimes people went over those levels and were charged for overages! Right now cell phone companies charge us for access, how many minutes we use, features ranging from voice mail to texting to music and video downloads and charge us for overages. Sounding familiar?
I think this alliance is the first step reducing the great amount of influence your cell phone company has on your cell phone use experience. In the future, there will be companies who just want to provide you will a cell phone signal, but don’t need to sell you the phone, provide the services you use on the phone as well as making sure you have cellular access. A cell phone bill will be less like paying for a service and more like paying for a utility. It will be just there in the background.
I am disappointed to not see Verizon as one of the members announced. I use Verizon because their coverage is the best where I live and a vast majority of my friends have Verizon so talking to them is free, anytime. (“In-network calling”) Hope I don’t have to change carriers to take advantage of this.