Google: All aboard the Open train

by Mathew on November 5, 2007 · 4 comments

Open cellphones, OpenSocial — it’s obvious that Google sees as its main competitive advantage a totally open (more or less) approach to data of all kinds. Just as it is trying to create a platform for the free movement of social data through OpenSocial, so it seems determined to create an open platform in the mobile arena.

I’ll say one thing: mobile is one of the places where we could all use a bit more openness. Right now, the mobile sphere is where the Internet was back in the early 1990s — it’s a morass of proprietary standards and walled-garden content, combined with the most usurious fees since the department-store credit card was invented.

As for Apple’s iPhone, it may be sexy and fantastically useful, but it is still a bit like a mobile version of America Online as far as I can tell (just as Facebook is on the Web). Is that really the best we can do?

I don’t know whether Google is trying to control the whole mobile effort, or whether it just wants to piggyback on mobile as an ad platform, or maybe a bit of both. And there is certainly a concern, as Om Malik notes, that some of the company’s partners are less than stellar (yes, I’m looking at you, Motorola). But I think the quest for openness has to be supported in virtually every arena, if only because it makes things easier — and I would argue in the long run more rewarding — for users.

Further reading:

Search Engine Land has more on the news, and Silicon Alley Insider looks at potential winners and losers (Larry Dignan at ZDNet has some thoughts about that too). USA Today has a short Q&A with Andy Rubin, who is spearheading the Android platform project. The NYT has a story here, and the official Google press release is here.

The live-blogging press corps, meanwhile, consists of Engadget, as well as its evil twin Gizmodo, along with Silicon Alley Insider, CrunchGear’s John Biggs — who is taking questions via IM — and a blogger from PCWorld mag.

  • http://be.blognation.com Robin Wauters

    Another case in point for ‘Google Open’ is its investment in FON, the free wi-fi sharing project from Europe.

  • http://blog.snipperoo.com Ivan Pope

    Matthew,
    You write “Right now, the mobile sphere is where the Internet was back in the early 1990s — it’s a morass of proprietary standards and walled-garden content, combined with the most usurious fees since the department-store credit card was invented.”
    But the internet never was this. Maybe online was, with a lot of proprietary databases and online systems. But the internet never had proprietary standards and walled-garden content. That was and is the glory of it. Unless I missed something? Ivan

  • http://www.staygolinks.com/ Barry Welford

    The problem is that Rogers hasn’t even pushed the iPhone here in Canada and charges exhorbitant rates for access to the Mobile Web. Since Rogers will be coat-tailing AT&T who will probably not join in on the Open Handset Alliance, we in Canada will be even farther away from where it’s all happening. Pity …

  • Rick

    I absolutely concur with Ivan. In fact, the success of the internet is based on that fundamentally open architecture. What you are talking about are the alternatives back then, the walled gardens of AOL and Compuserve.

    Mobile phone makers and operators are still trying to pretend that piece of history never happened, or that they can reverse history. In that way, this is the same issue as Facebook versus Open Social. It’s a battle that has been raging ever since the breakthrough of the internet, on various fronts.

    And there are still some battles to be fought: the internet desperately needs an open alternative to rich media stuff like Flash and streaming video, and get this out of the clutches of Adobe and Microsoft. And again, this is also directly in the interest of Google.

    Looking forward to Googles next announcement… ;-)

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