Google unveils its first phone

Staff
October 2, 2008

Courtesy of T-Mobile

Since the dawn of the new millennium, Apple, the King David of the tech world, has been able to quickly dispose of any Goliaths that come its way. One major example is how quickly it was able to eradicate Microsoft in the consumer-electronics field with the now ubiquitous iPod. The iPhone’s pairing with AT&T has made it the envy of the other major carriers in the telecom industry.

However, Google’s recent unveiling of its new mobile operating system, dubbed Android, on T-Mobile’s new G1 phone may show that after 32 years in the market, Apple could be the new Goliath against the 10-year-old search engine. Recent history has also shown that you shouldn’t underestimate Google’s power.

Google’s Android is not actually any one type of phone, but rather an operating system, much like Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian or Apple’s iPhone/iPod Touch operating system currently on mobile devices.

Even though information about Android has been widely available since November of last year, the Sept. 23 Google/T-Mobile unveiling gave both the public and the press the first opportunity to see the OS applied to an actual phone. It appears the G1 has plans of being a direct competitor to the iPhone. G1 has both a full keyboard and touch screen capability, but that’s not what will draw attention away from small-time developers. It has an advantage because of its open source-like capabilities.

The openness of Android will be its biggest draw for consumers and small-time developers who have had to bear the sometimes confusing rules and barriers of Apple’s software system. When Google collaborated with more than 30 other companies and created the Open Handset Alliance to develop the Linux-based mobile OS, it decided that opening the source code to other developers could help the phone’s software evolve over time. It’s not unlike the evolution of the PC and its plethora of applications, hardware and software with the advent of Windows.

Google co-founder Larry Page went as far to say that the G1 with Android “is as good a computer as you had a few years ago” during the unveiling in New York, according to The New York Times.

Page is referring to the multiple applications and online services offered by Google on its new phone. Gmail, Google Calendar, Search and YouTube come on the new phone. Most of these can already be accessed on the iPhone and similar devices, but Android centers these applications around the complete functionality of the phone.

Currently, with the iPhone’s App Store, programs must be approved by Apple and must not compete with any current application already on the iPhone. This means that if a pre-installed program has clunky functionality and rarely works, you couldn’t write a new program because Apple doesn’t allow direct competition with existing programs. This has irked several programmers who have already sworn they would write their rejected software for the G1’s Oct. 22 release.

The closed design of Apple’s iPhone has already harkened comparison by both Time and Slate to the days when Apple made up a niche market of computer users because of its unwillingness to open up to developers and hardware manufacturers. Analysts see Android as the next generation of Apple versus the world and say that if Apple doesn’t change its application standards, users will flock to the PC of the mobile world, like a terrible dream from the early ’90s.

While software openness has been the selling point of multi-function smart phones for businesses, companies wanting to use an Android-enabled phone will have to wait for new applications to be programmed by third-party developers. Synching with corporate software and servers other than those made by Google will not be immediately available. The waiting may be a turnoff while more developers continue the expansion of the iPhone.

As of now, the G1 will consistently draw comparisons to the iPhone by its music and general storage capacity, even though the G1’s storage capacity is dependent on a person buying an extra flash memory card.

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