First came the fervent and persistent rumors of a Google mobile phone.
Then, just six short weeks ago, the search supremo (and just-about-everything-else-online supremo) announced there would not be a ‘Google phone’ per se, but rather dozens of them from a raft of mobile manufacturers, and all built on an open Linux-based mobile phone platform named Android.
Now things are picking up steam, with Gizmodo posting a snap of one of the rumoured score of prototype phones circulating around the Googleplex and in the r&d labs of the mobile makers.
The device looks very much like it’s been cobbled together from existing chassis designs by Taiwan’s HTC, which is responsible for a estimated 80% of the world’s Windows Mobile smartphones (not just under its own brand but through badge-engineering for dozens of carriers and exclusive OEM/ODM contracts with several tech companies).
(HTC is also one of the leading partners in the Open Handset Alliance, which Google created as a hothouse for Android — the consortium’s roster of 34 tech companies also includes handset makers Samsung, Motorola and LG.)
And yes, this big drab-looking device is dog ugly – but this isn’t a slick made-for-media concept phone, it’s merely a functional prototype on which the developers and engineers can tinker (and we all know that as rule, they’re not big on elegant design).
Right now, it’s what sits inside the phone that is most important. You can bet that if Google’s handset partners lift the covers on their Android phones during the Mobile World Congress expo, which kicks off on February 11th in Barcelona – or if Google itself trots out a flock of phones to impress this annual powerhouse gathering of the global mobile industry (the company has booked two stands on the expo floor) – that these will be shiny snazzy models endowed with a very high ‘cool’ factor.
None the less, they’ll still be concept models to capture and ignite the attention of the market, the media and the public at large. Android isn’t expected to hit 1.0 stage until the second half of 2008, so right now it’s still a work in progress.
What we already now about Android is that its foundation is the Linux 2.6 kernel, onto which Google has assembled sufficient components to create a phone-centric OS.