By Lindsey Scott
Last week many of us watched as the wireless world worked itself into a frenzy over the unveiling of T-Mobile’s G1, the first mobile phone to run on Google’s Android operating system. Speculation about Google’s entrance into the mobile market had run rampant in the media for nearly a year as industry experts wondered whether the Internet giant would produce an iPhone killer, or better yet, a “gPhone.” Naturally, expectations for the September 23 preview event were high.
Now that the dust set has settled somewhat and we wait anxiously for the G1’s official launch on October 22, industry experts have had a chance to reflect on the implications of Google’s foray into the mobile space. Yesterday BusinessWeek published an op-ed piece which included some thought-provoking, albeit slightly romantic observations on what Android could mean for the mobile ecosystem.
The gist of the article is that until now, the mobile industry has been by and large an exasperating and overpriced experience for consumers at the mercy of wireless carriers who are “gruff, insensitive bullies” who hide behind “balkanized billing services, huckster-style contracts, and technical obscurity.” The author, Rachel Hinman, argues that T-Mobile could emerge as a hero in the wireless industry because of its decision to partner with Google and embrace a more open, customer-centric model for other carriers to follow.
Putting aside my skepticism about the feasibility of this theory, I have to say that I like many of the ideas Hinman puts forth. She argues that T-Mobile can become a hero in the mobile world by improving the user experience, offering contract-free plans and partnering with compelling brands like Apple and Google. Perhaps her most salient point is that T-Mobile needs to embrace the openness that Android is predicated on:
“If T-Mobile reflects the spirit of the Android platform and the Internet by allowing consumers the freedom and flexibility to do what they want, its service will embody an emerging trend customers have grown to want: Openness. T-Mobile should banish yesterday’s walled gardens and ridiculous proprietary ringtone stores and choose instead to embrace all that Android stands for.”
Ultimately, the implications of this idea go far beyond patching up relations between carriers and their customers or the roll-out of a fancy new cell phone. The end result of this strategy would be more about making Internet access an on-the-go, 24/7 phenomenon and turning our mobile phones into mini-computers.
In the end I think this is at the heart of why Google’s debut on the mobile scene has so many people talking – it represents the convergence of mobile and the Internet. Now all we have to is just sit back and wait.