Google's mobile milestone

24 Sep 2008

For a mere search company, Google has made a big impact on telecoms sector. It has built massive data centers, invested in long-haul and satellite broadband networks, lobbied for wireless broadband spectrum and dabbled in Wi-Fi.

With the unveiling of the G1, it's now in the handset biz. Powered by Google's Android platform, the HTC-built phone will launch in the US on October 22 at a subsidized $179, courtesy of T-Mobile.

The early reviews note that, like the Apple device, it has a touchscreen but it also comes with a slide-out keyboard. It's chunkier and heavier. It has an apps store, a 3 megapixel camera and 1GB memory.

Unlike the iPhone, it doesn't have a music or video player, or even a headphone jack.

It doesn't sync with Microsoft Exchange or anything that's not Google. In fact, you can't use the phone at all without a Google account.

As Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg puts it, "if your world already revolves around Google services, you may find that the G1 fits like a glove. If not, you may be disappointed."

The G1 won't rock the mobile world. But it's an important milestone in bringing open source development to the handset. The emergence of Linux-based Android has already has forced Nokia to open up Symbian.

For all the simplicity and design smarts of the iPhone, Apple has the task before it to counter the scale and heft of an open source challenge.

Symbolically enough, Microsoft has just told its partners it will delay the launch of Windows Mobile 7.

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