A total of thirty-four companies have formed this Open Handset Alliance, which “aims to develop technologies that will significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services” said Google. The Android platform is a fully integrated mobile "software stack" that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008, added the Google press release.
According to Neil Mawston, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics: “By the end of 2008, we predict that Android will have accounted for 2 percent of total worldwide smartphone shipments during the year. Google brings significant resources and a powerful online brand that will find support among operators and handset-makers alike.”
From the early information found on the website of the Open Handset Alliance, location-based services are not coming as an afterthought on this new platform. “Android provides access to a wide range of useful libraries and tools that can be used to build rich applications. For example, Android enables developers to obtain the location of the device” mentioned the website. “With Android, a developer could build an application that enables users to view the location of their friends and be alerted when they are in the vicinity giving them a chance to connect.”
“An open platform like Android can significantly accelerate the development and deployment of location-aware applications, content and services”, said Kanwar Chadha, Founder and Vice President of Marketing at SiRF Technology, a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance.
A fragmented mobile device market
In one hand this new platform seems to be good news for developers of location-based application, but the reality is that it is again a new platform to develop for. So far software developers of location-based services were already coping with many different Operating Systems: Symbian S60, Research in Motion’s Blackberry OS and Windows Mobile for smartphones; as well as Java (J2ME) and BREW for lower range mobile phones. With the launch of Android this will be a new platform to support.
Moving forward we can definitely expect a larger number of operating systems as soon as the iPhone gets a location technology and the Linux-based Nokia Internet tablet gets some market traction. Therefore initiatives such as SiRFstudio, to allow LBS developers to easily port their software from one platform to the other (see our previous article here), makes even more sense today.