While some look at the G1's arrival as a potential iPhone killer, the real story lies within the Android platform and its impact on the feature-phone market. The G1 has left many mobile device industry followers, particularly those in the developer community, marveling at the seemingly endless opportunities for Web-based services and applications. Mass-market devices are evolving to bring more advanced, PC-like features to millions of mobile phone users, and software is playing a large part in enabling them.
"No longer reserved for high-end smartphones, the mobile Web will be coming to life for more everyday users through this open source innovation," according to Javier Villamizar, president of high-growth markets at Brightstar.
Android is pretty much all about enabling applications and services through the mobile Internet, and to that end, it looks like an able platform. As an open source project, anyone can contribute to Android and influence its direction. It means that anyone can download, build, and run the code needed to create a complete mobile device. With an open source platform, developers, OEMs, carriers, and code contributors have the opportunity to build faster, cheaper, and more innovative devices and services.
"Open source allows everyone and anyone equal access to the ideas and innovation that can make good products great," said Andy Rubin, Google's senior director of mobile platforms. "An open sourced mobile platform that's constantly being improved upon by the community and is available for everyone to use speeds innovation, is an engine of economic opportunity, and provides a better mobile experience for users."
In order for this new phone to truly compete with the iPhone and Blackberry devices, it must be app-rich. With a rush to develop for the G1 phone over the open Android platform, competition in the mobile application space will increase tremendously, and will force developers to build higher-quality mobile apps in order to stand out from the rest of the pack. Without the rich applications that the iPhone has gained popularity for, convincing consumers that the Android phone is better than the iPhone will be a difficult task.
But Google is already partially there. It has given away the source code and publicly said that it won't be implementing any sort of draconian review process for developers to create applications for Android. Android developers will see 70% of any and all revenue from their apps go straight into their pockets. That's a big enticement. The remaining 30% will go to the network operators. In this case, that means T-Mobile USA. Google is not going to keep any money generated by the Android Market.
In its present form, Android and the G1 feel more like a feature phone than a smartphone. That is sure to change over time as more businesses develop applications for the Android platform and as the platform itself matures. Right now, it is not an enterprise-worthy device. It lacks the necessary support for Exchange and the security that most businesses would need.
While the G1 is an obvious first attempt to bring a fledgling platform to market, there is lots of room for Android to grow. And grow it shall.