I get a lot of questions about what "that Google phone is all about." What people are actually asking about is Android, the open-sourced software platform that Google is offering to wireless carriers and handset manufacturers to stimulate innovation in the mobile space. This morning I came across a great Wired article that explains (in language we can all understand) the history of Android, its prospects and why it matters. Here's a teaser:
"Is this interesting to Google?" That's what Andy Rubin was asking Larry Page. It was a spring day in 2005, and the two were in a conference room just off the main lobby at Google's headquarters. A simple yes and Rubin would have walked away happy...
...Rubin walked to the whiteboard and began his pitch. There were nearly 700 million cell phones sold each year compared with fewer than 200 million PCs — and the gap was widening. Increasingly, he said, phones were the way people wanted to connect with each other and with everything else. Yet the mobile industry was stuck in the dark ages...mobile was a tyrannical, closed system, repelling all innovators and disrupters who tried to gain entrance.
Rubin said his startup, called Android, had the solution: a free, open source mobile platform that any coder could write for and any handset maker could install...It would be a global, open operating system for the wireless future.
...Every year since 2002, the wireless sector managed to place at or near the top of the Better Business Bureau's tally of the most complained-about industries. Americans would rather do business with a used-car salesman or a collection agent than with a customer service rep for, say, T-Mobile or Motorola. And who could blame them? The plans were expensive, pricing was complex and capricious, and the phones never lived up to expectations. Constant innovation, the first principle of Page and Rubin's world, was anathema to phone companies. There had to be pent-up demand out there for something better.
So was Rubin's pitch interesting to Page? Absolutely. But he didn't want to stick his logo on Rubin's phone. Or write a supportive email. He had a better idea: Google would buy Android.
You can read the full article, Google's Open Source Android Phone Will Free the Wireless Web, by Daniel Roth here. Also, the response from Fortune's Apple2.0 blog here.