Last week Google announced Android, which is the newest open-source mobile phone platform. Google is not the only company behind Android but several companies make up the Open Handset Alliance
. Among the OHA companies are Intel, Motorola, NVIDIA, eBay, and T-Mobile. Some of the Android platform features include connectivity support for leading cellular technologies in addition to Bluetooth and WiFi, a web browser that is based upon WebKit, a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) implementation, and support for a variety of different hardware. Yesterday a preview build of the Android SDK (along with a device emulator and other information) was released to the public. Prior to the announcement of Android, when it was speculated to be the Google G-Phone, it had received quite a bit of mainstream media attention. This media coverage has continued through the announcement.
Meanwhile, the open-source mobile platform known to many GNU/Linux users, OpenMoko
, hasn't kicked up nearly as much mainstream media attention. Both OpenMoko and Android leverage the power of the Linux kernel and other open-source projects to provide a free software platform for mobile devices. In addition to the differing amounts of media coverage, OpenMoko and Android also differ with the hardware support. Even though OpenMoko has been around since last year, it only supports the FIC Neo1973 right now (Update:
though other phones are supported to varying degrees
). On the other hand, Android has the backing of almost three dozen companies in the Open Handset Alliance. Differing these two platforms is also the license. OpenMoko is distributed under the GPL/LGPL while Android uses the Apache v2 license.
Adding to the open-source mobile platform mix is also the Qtopia Phone Edition from Trolltech. While Trolltech has plans (like OpenMoko) to expand their hardware selection, right now the only phone running the phone edition of the Qtopia is the Greenphone.
While the mobile phone market is becoming saturated with mobile phone platforms, who will be the winner? The winner will be the free software community. With the backing of Google and other Fortune 500 companies through the Open Handset Alliance, Android is looking good even though it's only a week old. The first Android-powered phones will not be available until H2'2008 but in the end there's a favorable chance the Open Handset Alliance will prevail with Android leading mobile phone software innovations.
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