Google's Android platform and the Open Handset Alliance: a quick round-up

Carefully orchestrated announcements for broad, sweeping initiatives like the one staged by Google today don't always do a great job of diving straight into the meat and telling it like it is, so we thought we'd boil down the Android and Open Handset Alliance sitch as best we could into a tight, easy to digest series of bullets. If this list is still wider than your attention span, though, just know this: you can pick up your Google-powered phone in the latter half of 2008.

  • At its core, Android forms the basis for Google's operating system and supporting software for phones. In Google's own words, it's a software stack.

  • Two separate but related entities form the basis for today's announcement: the Linux-based Android mobile platform (a result of Google's 2005 acquisition of a start-up of the same name) and the Open Handset Alliance, a 33-strong group of device manufacturers, component manufacturers, software companies, and carriers that have committed to working with Android.

  • There is no cut and dried "Gphone" and Google doesn't intend (or at least it hasn't indicated an intent) to enter the hardware business. Instead, it'll leave that to established players like HTC, LG, and Samsung -- and theoretically, anyone else that wants to have a go at it since the Android platform and its code base is wide open.

  • Unlike the platform itself, there's no guarantee that devices based on the Android platform will be open to third party developers. Google says that'll be left to manufacturers and carriers to be decide, although it doubts they'll choose to lock them down (hmm, has Google ever worked with a carrier before?)

  • Nokia, Apple (on whose board Google CEO Eric Schmidt sits), Palm, and Microsoft are notably absent from the alliance. Palm has come out today to announce that it intends to continue to integrate Google services into its future products.

  • Carriers currently in the alliance include China Mobile, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Sprint Nextel, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, and T-Mobile. T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel are the two national US carriers that are signed up; AT&T and Verizon are not.

  • The first Android-powered devices are expected in the second half of 2008. Rumor has it that Google has been using an HTC-sourced device, the "Dream," to demonstrate Android to potential partners. HTC may launch a version of the Dream as one of its first handsets to use the platform.