Google's open platform for mobile computing is widely misunderstood. Joe Wilcox pretty much summed up the ignorance of Android's importance by calling it a "FUD announcement". The iPhone mentality has sunk in too much. Android is not just about being able to develop 3rd party applications. Apple's the only vendor who doesn't allow that.
Android is an open source operating system and API for mobile computing. It is free for companies to take and extend and use commercially. It's not forced to Google and is not going to have forced Google advertising or whatever.
Why would Google make this?
Let's make an analogy to the yesteryear of broadcasting.
In the 1940s, NBC was created by RCA to sell televisions. The belief was that RCA needed some kind of content to sell these new-fangled TVs. Good thinking. RCA used its muscle to force a broadcast standard down the FCC's throat, and made insane money by selling the TVs.
Then what happened? Everyone started making TVs compatible with the standard. RCA was the loser, and NBC was the winner.
You really think that Google wants to play this game for the next 30 years when cell phones become the predominant internet platform instead of the PC? (See next section)
So Google will give away the TVs, essentially, because it makes their core content business that much more efficient. Google is playing the NBC game. Apple is playing the RCA game in every market they're in. Microsoft and Symbian are closer to the RCA game, since they're closed, licensed OSes, though they don't sell hardware.
What I really think we've seen today is a failure by the Google PR department. Not only have they done a poor job at representing the reasons for making Android, but they let months of rumors grow that a magical gPhone would compete against the iPhone. So of course there was a lot of disappointment by gadget freaks. What would be better than a $600 glitzy gadget they could show off to their friends in time for Christmas?
I'm glad that someone out there is at least trying to fight against the consumer restrictions that we have in the cell market. Now is the time, while the idea of browsing the web from your phone is still relatively young. I wish them luck and I'm looking forward to seeing the SDK.
By the way, how much more do you think Linux would be adopted today if it had been developed and backed by a corporation like Google originally? What if OS/2 had been open-sourced in the early 90s? Companies usually do open source as a desperation move when their closed-source model isn't working. If IBM had realized that their revenue growth was entirely in services, they could have open sourced OS/2 very early in its life and never lost a penny. Google at least has that insight thanks to the success of their core business (AdWords).
The Death of the PC
This is the section I mentioned above. Apologies for the long post.
Today a co-worker and I were discussing the imminent release of Visual Studio 2008. He said something along the lines of "Can you imagine ever trying to write a large application in WPF?"
Wow.. so true. WPF, if you haven't used it, is Microsoft's really big and really slow .NET-based UI framework. It's kind of neat for small applications -- and I like the markup language nature of it -- but like my co-worker said, utterly useless for large ones. Try even using the Orcas UI editor for it sometime. It's very, very slow.
WPF will be useful for large apps someday, on a machine with 16 x86 cores, 16 GB of RAM and a quad-SLI 8800. But before then, what are we paying for to buy Orcas? What are we paying for to buy Vista, or Leopard?
This all comes back to my "Leopard v. Vista: Both Are a Scam" post. We already didn't need Vista or Leopard, and at some point soon, the essential features are not going to require a PC anymore. Cell phones can already do email and web, and that's 90% of what people want. Eventually they'll be able to do our photos and videos too. Just put a USB port on a cell phone and maybe you can edit videos on your MyBook. Better yet, why can't I just set a powerful cell phone down on my desk here and start working? It wirelessly connects to my 24" monitor, my keyboard, my mouse, my extra HDD. PCs will be like workstations were 10 years ago: niche devices used by people who need to do 3D graphics.
Don't worry, I have doubts about this too. But I'm probably wrong when I think "No, it's not possible, I'll always need a PC." Soon, those of us who believe that are going to be the old generation falling out of favor. We'll be those old people who talk about how it used to be. Meanwhile, the MySpacers who SMS instead of speak will be doing everything on their phone.