After Google released on Monday an initial set of details about its plans to alter how mobile applications are created and distributed, industry watchers are compiling a long list of follow-up questions about the Android platform and the Open Handset Alliance.
[ See related special report: Google Android: Invader from beyond ]
IDG News Service had a chance to talk to Rich Miner, a key member of Android's technical staff and a co-founder of the namesake company Google acquired in 2005, and ask him some of those questions.
During the brief phone chat, he said all members of the alliance have to agree to protect Android from technical fragmentation and explained why Google decided to launch its own mobile Linux effort when several others already exist.
Here is an edited transcript of the interview:
IDGNS: Other mobile Linux initiatives exist on the market that are trying to accomplish a similar thing as Android. Won't Android compete with them and complicate those efforts?
Miner: When we looked at the other [mobile] Linux activities out there, oftentimes they're initiatives that are based on Linux but their resulting platforms aren't completely open. Or they're completely open and they're Linux, but they're missing most of the things that [Android has]. They probably don't have video codecs, Midi sequencer, speech recognition. So they're not a complete phone stack. The goal with Android was to build into it everything you needed to release a phone: an entire stack to build a competitive smartphone or high-end feature phone.
IDGNS: The description you have given of Android's browser sounds exciting. Will it in fact replicate the PC browser experience on mobile devices?
Miner: Yes. It's based on the [open source] Webkit browser technology. That's the same browser that Apple ships with the iPhone and that's used in the Nokia Series 60 phones. So it's a full desktop browser, based on the same Webkit core Apple uses for their Safari browser, but highly optimized for our mobile environment. ... It'll be a great mobile Web experience.
IDGNS: Speaking of the iPhone, any idea why Apple isn't among the Open Handset Alliance's partners? Are there any conversations going on between Google and Apple over this?
Miner: You'd have to ask Apple about Apple.
IDGNS: Some people wonder whether the freedom to broadly modify Android might backfire in case people start building proprietary extensions and tweaks, or requiring them, so that you end up with developers back to square one, having to modify applications for every phone.