Google Android almost here?

Google needs to determine what it wants Android to be when it grows up.

The Register is reporting that Google's Android should see ship with its first (T-Mobile) phone within five weeks, and that the phone will require that buyers sign up for a Google Gmail account. Shades of Microsoft and its Passport service.

First things first, however. Google is still struggling with an unhappy crew of Android developers, its primary crime being a lack of transparency.

As it readies its long-anticipated open mobile OS for public release, Google is behaving in a way that threatens to permanently taint its relationship with many Android developers. The company's actions--including restricting access to key development tools and allegedly treading on open source principles--have created, if not a full-fledged revolt, at least a sense of disappointment and disillusionment among many in the tightly knit Android development community.

This, however, is not a difficult problem to solve. Google doesn't necessarily need to invite the world to contribute to Android...yet. Though it's not the traditional open-source way, it does make sense for Google to try to exercise some quality control with access to its Android SDK to ensure high-quality applications out of the gate.

However, Google does need to be more transparent in what it's doing, and it needs to determine if it wants to compete as the open alternative to the iPhone, or whether it thinks it can largely go it alone against Apple. I think Google would struggle to beat Apple at its own game, and should instead work to make Android a gathering place for developers who don't want to tie themselves into the iPhone's proprietary platform.

To get there, Google has its work cut out for it, given that Symbian and LiMo are already pushing the open-source mobile message. Google has made it clear that it doesn't intend to converge Android with Symbian or other alternatives. Fine.

But to lead the open mobile revolution, Google needs to lead out in transparency, innovation, and marketing, not mimic the worst of Apple's proprietary approach.

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