Google today introduced an open source Linux based mobile device platform called Android. Google teamed up with major handset manufacturers like HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung. In the United States, eventually when the handsets become available, they would be available via Sprint-Nextel and T-Mobile.

Essentially, the differentiator is that Google would give its OS for free to phone manufacturers who are free, under the Open Office license – to add additional features to it. Also, independent developers are free to write and distribute applications based on the open API Android will provide.

Number of ways Android could shake up the Telecommunication industry. Traditionally, operators have been notorious in the way they have dictated terms to handset manufacturers -ostensibly to protect the networks they build and operate. Now with Android, atleast the participating operators, essentially open up their networks to hundreds of applications that will be freely distributable to any handset using the Android platform.

To operators, it provides a competitive value add advantage – a potential lure to subscribers from other operators – in a market that is already saturated.

It would seem to me analogous to the 70’s and 80’s when ATT prevented customers to even plugging a phone of their choice to phone outlets – exactly for the same reasons that cellular providers now provide – network security. And then de-regulation changed everything.

The one concern of operators would be – that they are potentially be letting go of revenue streams based on use of their network – essentially cannibalizing their own services – for e.g. I can use a third party GPS software free of cost instead of paying the 5-10 dollars I’d have to pay Sprint or Verizon per month to currently use Telenav. Brings back that entire Net Neutrality debate – now on wireless networks.

We’ll see how it all goes – but definitely a potential game-changer for the industry. A time of great excitement for consumers. It can only mean good things for end-users.

 PS: As a long time Palm user, back from the Tungsten II days, I just wonder, where the hell was Palm in the list of 50 odd handset manufacturers – especially, since Palm has been designing its Linux based next generation Palm OS for a really long time. Topic for another post though.

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