Android – one step closer to freedom of communication

November 5th, 2007 | by ian |

Android: the open phone platform Like most heavy cellphone users I have a love hate relationship with both the device and the wireless service. Love because it gives me freedom from a physical location and thus is an essential business enabler for entrepreneurs. Hate because it restricts my freedom in many ways that are designed solely to make more money for the handset and communications provider:

  • handsets are locked to a specific service provider’s network (consumers sign away the right to a competetive market for a small subsidy on the handset upfront)
  • restricted ability to run applications (e.g. no Skype for Blackberry or iPhone)
  • plans that are designed to extract the most money possible from entrepreneurs (especially in Canada, collusion between the “competetitors” ensures high margins)
  • So thanks to Google and others for supporting the development of an “open” platform for phones which threatens to transform the market:

    Next step: we need openly accessible wireless networks for such phones. Currently the only really open network is the internet and only if you can afford an unfiltered and reasonably symmetrical last mile which rules out many consumer internet products including wireless data (which is cost prohibitive in Canada). Widespread internet access is only somewhat accessible if you are a hotspot hacker extraordinaire.

    Maybe, just maybe Google’s plan to bid for the former UHF 700Mhz spectrum and make it accessible to 3rd parties is connected with Android project. Just maybe ;)

    To be fair, Android is getting a lot of hype almost a year before we can expect to see anything, while there are other mobile phone operating systems vying for a place as relatively open mobile internet platforms. Om Malick just published a review of the market for mobile platforms pointing out alternative mobile Linux platforms, and recently Alistair introduced us to Nokia’s N810 tablet which shows potential as an open mobile communications platform even if it doesn’t have an integrated cellphone. It will be interesting to see the next platform moves of Microsoft, currently with a relatively open platform as mobile platforms go, and RIM, whose tightly restricted Blackberry platform is a favorite with enterprise and e-mail junkies.

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