Google announced today that they would be partnering up with a load of other companies including Samsung, Motorola and LG to produce a new phone "software stack". For those of us in the technology game this basically means Google plans to release mobile phone operating system to rival that of Microsoft, Symbian and the various Linux flavours out there already.
What I find most annoying about this is that Google has for years now feasted upon the fruits of the Open Source Community, using many of their projects to enable additional features and indeed their core search facilities to work. While it may be argued that the Summer of Code gives back to that community, there is a sense that rather than sponsoring an existing project like openMoko (a Linux based, open source version of what Google has announced) they've decided to go out on their own and start from scratch.
Given Google's tremendous resources it won't be long before we see the platform hit the market.
Within the commercial market there is already Maemo (nokia's Internet Tablet platform which they actually open sourced) and QTopia, a commercial package available on the GreenPhone which is a development kit and is mostly open source too.
My guess as to why Google didn't run with any of these options is that there are already thriving communities surrounding them and trying to work with these existing communities makes it difficult for the Google techies to throw their weight around.
Hey ho. As a developer, mobile development is already a nightmare having to support various versions of Symbian, MS Windows Mobile, BlackBerry as well as smaller (but vocal) numbers os Maemo users we are now having to think about iPhone from Apple so adding "Google Phone OS" isn't that much more work.
For me, having had a mobile phone for the better part of 15 years and having had a data capable phone for nearly 10 years I've watches OSes come and go, killer apps be talked about every 6 months and watching the market mature the only two things ever to take off properly on a mobile was SMS and now e-mail.
I've got an E65 nokia and it is the best phone I've ever owned. Why? Because the web browser works seamlessly on standard web sites and the email is easy to use, even without a full keyboard. Oh, and it doesn't crash as do most of the rest.
Spending all this time and money in my opinion by Google is absolute folly, but then they have virtually limitless cash reserves and they have a staff of many thousands across the world that they have to retain doing something - they may as well be making a phone OS as anything else.
Who knows this might end speculation that we are about to have Google OS on our desktop next year as well.
Source for citation: ajfisher.me/2007/11/05/bye-bye-openmoko.