Google's Android Open Handset Alliance Challenges Incumbents

Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, RIM, Symbian, and Verizon are absent from Google's coalition focused on a Linux-based software platform for mobile phones.
Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris said about Google, "Clearly they're an important partner and today's announcement doesn't change that." She declined to speculate about whether Apple would join the alliance, but pointed out that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that Apple plans to make the iPhone a more open platform for developers through the release of a software development kit early next year.

Microsoft's Scott Rockfeld, group product manager for Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, sounded less upbeat. "Really, what we heard wasn't surprising," he said, referring to the conference call detailing the announcement. "It's not new or revolutionary, either. It's kind of what Windows Mobile has been doing for the past five years."

Asked whether Microsoft would consider joining the alliance, Rockfeld chuckled and replied, "We weren't invited." And he added that Microsoft already has an alliance of its own that includes 48 equipment makers, 160 mobile operators in 55 countries, and thousands of independent software vendors.

Verizon was more circumspect. "We welcome the support of Google, handset makers, and others for our goal of providing more open development of applications on mobile handsets," the company said in an e-mailed statement, noting that it hasn't ruled out joining the OHA. "In today's wireless marketplace, companies compete fiercely by offering customers what they want: reliability, great customer service, and innovative and compelling products and services. Our competitive marketplace is a tremendous laboratory for innovation, where great ideas bubble to the top and resonate with customers."

Jason Mackenzie, VP of HTC America, said that his company's participation in the alliance wouldn't have any impact on its relationship with Microsoft. "Microsoft will continue to be a big part of who HTC is and a big part of our future projects," he said, noting that HTC produced 75% of Windows Mobile handsets this year and that it expects to grow that share next year.

Mackenzie said that HTC plans to be first to market with an Android-based phone in the second half of 2008. He declined to provide details about the device and said that this particular device wouldn't involve a mobile ad revenue sharing arrangement with Google. As to whether future models might, he said it was too soon to tell.

"I think the industry is ready for open," said Mackenzie. "The OHA alliance is a step in that direction."

"We think this could be game-changing," said Beard from Google. "We see it accelerating developers to create interesting and innovative mobile Web applications. The more interesting things that are going on the mobile Web, the more people will use the devices."