It’s only Day 2 of eComm and I’m already exhausted! As Dryburgh promised, this is a really fast paced event: 15-mns sessions, followed by 5-mns lightning talks and a few 30-mns keynotes… and this all day long! This afternoon will be the first one hour panel on mobile mashups. But the lack of proper Wi-Fi connectivity is really annoying.
Anyway, this morning starts with Google’s manager of Wireless, Rich Miner (pictured) sharing his views of the mobile telecom space and about his baby… Android.
Inspite of his telco pedigree – he was working in the past at France Telecom’s Orange Labs -, Miner had little sympathy for carriers who “failed” to bring the Internet to mobile devices and “came up with web browser standards who were very limiting”.
“They came up with arcane limited versions of HTML. So our whole world is moving to XHTML and more robust versions of browsers, these guys focused on limited sets. Turns out the iPhone proves what you can do on a mobile device and the Internet… What you’re going to see is Webkit like full HTML and XML 2.0wy type web browsers appearing in phones. They are now in all the series 60 mobile phones that are shipping, the iPhone, Android.”
With Android you can build any type of phones: from low-end phones to smartphones
During Q&A, Miner admitted that the first phones will probably be focused on very powerful internet connected mobile devices but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
“This is a completely open mobile stack. If you’re a hardware OEM and you’re trying to reduce the cost it takes to manufacturing mobile phones, you have one powerful operating system that can scale your range from low-end feature phones, all the way up to the most powerful smartphones, simply by striping elements out or reducing the capabilities”
Android is not an open development effort
Inspite being a collaborative effort between Google, software developers, handset OEMs and carriers that helped Google create the stack and make decisions about what should be in the platform or not, Minor insisted that Android was not an “open” development effort, like for example OpenMoko is.
“Google had reference designs. We were effectively the architect. Because we’re not building this as an open community development effort. We’re building this as a well engineered design system with strong design leadership, with clear knowledge of what pieces we needed… to build that system”.
However, Miner confirmed that the whole Android stack will be open source. At which point the community will have more say in future functionalities. Something similar to Apple’s management of the Webkit development process, where Google, Nokia, individuals and others contribute to the open source browser development.
Miner also confirmed that the first Android handsets will be launched in the second half of 2008. In response of a question as to whether developers should build apps for the iPhone or Android, he said that it depends on the app developers want to build.
“There are just certain apps you can’t build on an iPhone. They don’t let you do multi-process things, they don’t let you run app in the background after you switch from one app to another. You can’t interpret things. You can’t have interpreted languages in your apps on an iPhone. There’s a lot of restrictions. So you should first look and see, does the iPhone allow me to do what I want to do. Ultimately my belief is that any start-up company or company that is trying to build a popular app will see that app on both platforms. They are both very contemporary programming environments. As long as somebody cleans the architecture system and uses contemporary programming techniques, it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain multiple versions of successful apps across the iPhone and Android”.