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Google ogles mobiles, Tux in tow

Oct 30, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Google is set to announce products and/or strategies for the mobile phone market, according to reports. The search giant reportedly hopes to extend its broad portfolio of network-based applications and services beyond the public Internet, and onto the private networks run by wireless carriers.

The analysis comes from the Wall Street Journal, which this morning ran a brief piece entitled, “Can a Google Phone Connect With Carriers?”

In the story, author Amol Sharma cites “people familiar with the matter” in speculating that Google's plan will involve opening phones “right down to the operating system.” This would supposedly enable application developers to write mobile phone programs availing users of services such as Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail email.

The pay-off for Google would be enhanced revenue through targeted advertising, Sharma suggests. Less clear is how wireless carriers might benefit, he admits.

Wireless carriers — especially in the U.S., where Google's Internet-based services enjoy the highest usage — have traditionally exerted quite a bit of control over the private wireless networks that they built and maintain. However, the free Internet has raised public expectations about network access, and carriers have recently been sued for “locking” devices to their networks.

In the past, carriers have carefully vetted applications capable of accessing their networks. User-installable applications are typically limited to running within managed Java sandboxes that differ from phone to phone, leading to high application maintenance costs for third-party developers.

If Sharma's view of Google's phone plans is accurate, the company may release cross-platform middleware aimed at providing a consistent API (application programming interface) across a range of phone OSes, including Linux. Similar to Trolltech's Qtopia framework, the middleware might come with cross-development tools letting developers target multiple platforms from a single code base.

Of course, that's just one possibility. An earlier round of speculation suggested that Google would enter the market for complete Linux-based OS stacks, possibly built largely with Java middleware and applications.

Still more speculation can be found in Sharma's original story, available in the WSJ's online edition, here.

Henry Kingman

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