Google led the creation of Open Handset Alliance, a consortium involving a number of telco and manufacturers . As its first act the Alliance released Android, an open source operating system for mobiles complete of SDK and API. The SDK includes a working emulator and half a dozen example applications. The idea to establish an open platform for mobile developers is very good but not particularly new: project Openmoko has been working to a similar concept for several months and went as far as to release a developer version of the handset.
Currently there are several competing platforms with a significant presence on the market: Symbian OS, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone, Motorola MotoMAGX, Qualcomm BREW and RIM Blackberry to name a few. Trying to build a business on top of mobile applications is very difficult because you have to make several different versions of your application and the market is very fluid. Now, with the huge money and pressure that Google can inject into the field there’s a chance they can impose a common platform.
They chose to build on top of several open source technologies: Linux, OpenGL, SQLite and Webkit. The latter is particularly interesting because it’s a rendering engine derived from the KDE project (and going to be merged back into konqueror) and already powers the iPhone, s60 and Safari. This could become the rendering engine widely used both on the web and on mobile handsets.
To bootstrap the project and quickly build a critical mass of third party developers, Google issued a contest with a 10 million dollar prize for the best applications that will be developed in the next few months. There are a few countries not allowed to participate to the contest. As usual there are countries forbidden by US laws (Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and Myanmar) and on top of that there are countries excluded because of local restrictions: Quebec and… Italy!
So Telecom Italia is one of the members of Open Handset Alliance, but Italians can’t participate to the challenge. Great. How is this possible? Simple: in Italy contests are regulated by a very strict law requiring that issuers create accurate documentation, put the prize in a protected guarantee fund and seek permission of the Ministry of Economy. Google probably found that going through all of this was not worthwhile. Italian bureaucracy and over-legislation at work. Do you remember my last post on this topic?