Google to launch mobile platform

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Google Inc., in collaboration with members of the Open Handset Alliance, has developed an open mobile platform called Android.

Android is a mobile software stack that includes an operating system, middleware, user interface and applications. The Android platform will be available through open-source licenses so that mobile operators and manufacturers can independently design products that run on the Android system.

The first phones developed around the Android platform are scheduled for release in the second half of 2008.

Matt Strain, senior search manager at SEMDirector, predicts that the new platform will enable lower development costs, which will then be passed down to consumers, resulting in lower handset costs across the industry.

Strain also foresees plenty of opportunities for Google to monetize Android. "There are endless opportunities for application development and, subsequently, monetization," he wrote in an e-mail interview. "Google may then weave in AdWords and other advertising options. AdWords may be able to fuel this platform, in time, by itself, rewarding developers who make applications that can be easily monetized."

A potential downside is alienation of current Google partners, according to Strain. "Some may not be interested in the open source model," he said.

A software development kit for Android will be released next week. The kit contains the tools required to create applications for the Android platform. Manufacturers and wireless operators will be able to customize Android - a move that Open Handset Alliance members hope will expedite the development and marketing processes.

The Open Handset Alliance, which comprises 34 technology and mobile industry companies, was formed to encourage low-cost development and distribution of mobile devices and services. The Alliance, whose members include T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola, also aims to foster innovation in the creation of mobile devices and services.

Google executives say the Android platform will complement - but not replace - the company's longstanding mobile strategy.

"Google will to continue to make moves in industries where the company can provide the content platform," Strain concluded. "All the acquisitions are usually done with one consideration in mind: æIs this something [they] can distribute content on?'"

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