Google rallies allies in open Linux phone initiative

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Google and 33 other companies have announced an ambitious industry alliance that will maintain a completely open source mobile phone stack. The Open Handset Alliance (OHA) says phones based on its Linux-based "Android" stack will reach market in as soon as eight months.

The Android stack is based on "open Linux kernel," the group says. It also includes a full set of mobile phone application software, in order to "significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services," OHA said.

The stack appears to have been created by Android, a mobile phone software house that Google acquired just over two years ago. The Android stack's name is apparently a reflection of co-founder Andy Rubin's fondness for robots. Rubin previously co-founded Danger, a software house that continues to provide software for the Sidekick "hiptop" marketed by T-Mobile.

Few real technical details about the Android stack are available at this point; however, an "early access" version of the Android SDK is being prepped for release on Nov. 12, the OHA said. The stack will be licensed under "one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses," according to the fledgling organization.

In taking on not only the Linux kernel and middleware layer, but also the application stack, the OHA appears to have more ambition than earlier industry groups, such as the kernel-oriented LiMo Foundation, and the middleware-oriented LiPS (Linux Phone Standards Forum) and OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) initiatives, among others. In terms of its licensing and scope, the OHA's Android stack may more closely resemble Trolltech's Qtopia Phone Edition and FIC's OpenMoko projects.