Google's Product Development Strategy
I ran across an article this morning on Google's Android project. Android is Google's attempt to create an open source operating system for mobile phone technology. The idea is that Android would serve as an open source operating system and companies would develop hardware around it. Recently, T-Mobile announced that they would be releasing the G1--the first handset designed to operate with Android.
In his article, Chris O'Brien points to a number of Google's recent projects, including OpenSocial, which is designed to create an open API standard for social networking sites. O'Brien points to a lack of promotion and development for past initiatives and emphasizes their failure to gain significant market share.
If you are just evaluating these initiatives on their individual merit, O'Brien has a point. I'm not certain that I would buy shares in T-Mobile based on the G1, and I wouldn't purchase one of the phones at the moment, either.
I think, however, that many people are missing the point on these initiatives. Google is not trying to become a mobile phone vendor--Google is trying to expand the reach and openness of the web. If Google's initiative results in Symbian making its operating system into a more robust web platform, then Google will have gained eyes for its search services and boosted its AdSense revenue. So even if Google loses the market share contest to other platforms, it wins if those platforms integrate more web services.
So, while I don't think that Android necessarily heralds an explosion of open source mobile operating systems, I do think that the G1 may be the vanguard of better web technology in the smartphone market. If Google has spurred mobile phone companies to create better web platforms, Google wins again.