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I, Google

08 ноября 2007

Omnipresent in Isaac Asimov’s robot stories is a corporation called US Robots and Mechanical Men. Google may not yet have managed to develop a humanoid automaton, but the launch of its Android platform for mobile phones shows it has a similar determination to dominate the Internet, in any form it may take. Its effort to do so via open source software is welcome.

I, GoogleAndroid – which will include an operating system, user interface and applications when it is released next week – is a Linux-based, free-of-charge software package that handset-makers can build into mobile phones. It is part of Google’s response to the increased sophistication of mobiles and the growth in their use for handling data.

Google will be venturing into a fiercely competitive market, going up against Microsoft, which offers a mobile version of its Windows operating system; Symbian, which is owned and backed by industry players, including Nokia and Ericsson; and various in-house standards, including the Apple operating system that powers its iPhone.

Microsoft and Symbian’s failure to dominate the market is striking. Both have been available for years – Windows Mobile is already on its sixth iteration – but handset manufacturers and network operators have not made either into a standard, for fear of ceding too much value to the standard’s owner.

Apple’s homegrown software approach allowed it to design the touch-screen interface that is one of the iPhone’s main selling points. But while custom operating systems may work for a cutting-edge product, they are unlikely to encourage third party software developers, who will not want to rewrite their code for each different platform.

That suggests Google has a real opportunity to shape the mobile phone industry, even if not in a way that immediately makes it money. It has assembled an impressive range of backers for its Open Handset Initiative, including Motorola and several big Japanese and European network operators, although the depth of their commitment is unclear. Widespread take-up of an open standard would speed the growth of the mobile internet.

It also shows just how strategically the $13bn of cash on Google’s balance sheet allows the company to think. A few tens of millions of dollars spent on Android is nothing if it leads to a mobile internet based on a truly open standard. For consumers, provided there is nothing nasty in the small print, Android is a welcome new entrant. For technology competitors, it is a reminder that Google is a deep-pocketed and disruptive influence in their midst.

Источник: Financial Times

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