Developers Go Gaga Over Google Phone

The Internet company Google is opening up its mobile phone operating system. That means any developer can upload a program that users can buy to run on a phone using Google's operating system, called Android. Tech guru Mario Armstrong talks with Steve Inkseep about what kind of programs could be available.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Today the Internet company Google is opening the doors to its new mobile phone operating system called Android. The system will allow any software developer in the world to create a program for Google's new phone. If the significance of this is lost on you, we've called our technology guru Mario Armstrong to help explain, as he often does. Mario, good morning.

MARIO ARMSTRONG: Good morning, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: OK. So what's happening here?

ARMSTRONG: Well, this is a big change. This is a major shift. Google has made this announcement called Android. And it's open source, meaning anyone can create for it. And that's significantly different than what Apple has done. You need to think of it, Steve, almost like it's its own platform. For example, Android, the operating system, is a platform for devices and phone. And if you think of it like Microsoft Windows is an operating system that runs on several computers, like HP, Dell, and Toshiba...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

ARMSTRONG: Well, Android is a new mobile operating system that could run on several devices like LG, Nokia, and Motorola. So more devices now have a new operating system, especially in the mobile arena, to be able to create applications on. And that's a significant difference.

INSKEEP: This means anybody can take the Google phone and create a program that is a word processor or has a calendar or brushes my teeth or does anything else.

ARMSTRONG: That's right. Takes a picture of you in the morning. I mean, it goes beyond that. Look, they already have some programs created for it that do those types of things. There is one called My Closet, which manages your photographs and information about the clothes you own, Steve.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ARMSTRONG: And coordinates and records your daily outfits.

INSKEEP: OK. What happens when I leave the phone in my other suit or something? I wonder if it could take care of that. I just want to know, though, how is this different from Apple, which is doing something very similar, isn't it?

ARMSTRONG: Yes. They are doing something similar. They do have an application store for their devices. But Apple only has two devices, the iPhone and the iTouch. So programmers and software developers have been creating applications, but it's only available on those two devices. And it's kind of a walled garden approach. You have to pay to play, so to speak. And there's a criteria that you have to pass, that Apple lets you in.

INSKEEP: Oh, you have to basically apply for the right to do this, to be able to do this.

ARMSTRONG: That's correct.

INSKEEP: Google says it's wide open. Anybody who wants to do anything, go ahead.

ARMSTRONG: That's correct. And you still have to pay a smaller fee in order to provide your application through the Google system, but there is no criteria. Everyone will be allowed to have their application up in the store.

INSKEEP: Is this something that everybody who sells any kind of phone is going to be doing pretty soon?

ARMSTRONG: I mean, pretty much so. I mean, unless you really have a closed system that really works well, I mean, you're going to really start seeing - right now, you have over 30 companies that are already involved in what is called the Open Handset Alliance. And that is a group of everyone from manufactures of cell phones to software companies trying to understand how they could use this platform in a variety of areas.

INSKEEP: Does this mean that phone companies within - I mean, given the way that people develop programs - within a matter of months they're not even going to know what people are using these phones for? They're not even going to know what - where their profit is coming from.

ARMSTRONG: That's a great question and an awesome point because starting in the first quarter, that's when you can actually start seeing in this particular Android marketplace, people making money off their applications. But you bring up a bigger point in that you might start seeing internal technology organizations inside of other companies creating their own applications. They don't even necessarily need to buy anything from a store that someone else created. They could create their own apps for their own offices or their own businesses.

INSKEEP: Mario, thanks for the update.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Mario Armstrong is Morning Edition's regular technology commentator, and he also hosts the radio show "The Digital Spin" on public radio stations WYPR and WEAA in Baltimore.

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