Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Can Google open the celllular network?

As we have seen, the cellular network is closed. On the Internet, anyone can deploy an application, but most cellular operators control applications. This problem was highlighted by John O’Rourke, general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile business, who pointed out that it had taken Microsoft more than half a decade to get to its current level -- doing business with 160 mobile operators in 55 countries. Even Microsoft has to negotiate with mobile operators one at a time.

Mr. O'Rourke was quoted in a New York Times article on Google's plan to provide open-source telephone software and application development tools. They have formed a coalition to develop and promote this software. The coalition, called The Open Handset Alliance, includes a number of large telephone manufacturers and network operators, but others, like Apple, Verizon and AT&T are noticeably missing.

Columnist Robert Cringely predicts that Google will go further and become a cellular operator by bidding in the FCC auction of 700 MHz spectrum which will be freed up by the switch to digital television broadcast. If that happens, he expects them to offer free, ad-supported cell phone service.

Given the Apple iPhone and Google's plans, what do you expect your cell phone and service to be like in five years?