According to the Wall Street Journal, mobile phones powered by the Google-led Android platform – the so-called GPhone – are unlikely to see the light of day until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest or, more likely, early next year. Perhaps not all that surprising considering that Google elected not to build its own hardware, and instead is working with over 30 partners to bring Android-based handsets to market.
The reasons given for the delay are plenty:
- The operating system is still a ‘work in progress’, with the various partners continually lobbying for additional features. “This is where the pain happens,” says Android chief Andy Rubin.
- Carriers need time to customize Android with their own branded services and User Interface, rather than sticking with Google’s own suite of applications.
- At the same time, developers are complaining that it’s difficult to write for Android since Google has yet to lock down its own development.
- China Mobile is said to be having trouble translating the Android software from Roman characters into Chinese.
- Additionally, it’s claimed that, in a push to help T-Mobile deliver on its promise of getting an Android-powered phone out the door before the year is up, Google has been unable to provide the needed resources to competing networks.
All of the above paints a pretty bumpy road ahead for the GPhone, at least in the short term.
Reading between the lines it looks as if Google’s Open Handset Alliance strategy may have inherited the worse aspects of both an open and closed platform. By releasing Android to developers, carriers and handset manufacturers as a ‘work in progress’, Google has raised expectations (since anything “broken” can still, in theory, be fixed), with each partner seemingly able to make their own demands on what the finished platform will look like. Worse still, if they don’t like the outcome, Android’s open-source license means that partners are at liberty to make any changes they see fit, not just cosmetic, including re-designing the UI and closing off access to parts of the operating system. It’s in this context that Apple’s more closed strategy and the Steve Jobs dictatorship doesn’t look so bad after all.