Monday, December 31, 2007

Google: I am in your White Spaces

Google's co-founder Larry Page was quoted in Fortune magazine's Techland blog in reference to the 700 MHz spectrum auction:
"I don’t think we feel like there is a desperate need for us to have to bid to win or anything like that," Page told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call last month. "We have many, many different options available to us as a company in terms of spectrum."

One of these "many different options" for Google is surely white spaces, the portions of spectrum between the TV channels. Google, along with Microsoft, Intel, HP, Earthlink, Dell, etc., is part of the Wireless Innovation Alliance (also known as the White Spaces Coalition), which is working hard to have the white spaces freed up for use. Right now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not allow this.

In mid-2007, Microsoft had sent FCC prototype White Space Devices (WSDs) to test the effective use of the white spaces spectrum to prove that such use would not affect existing TV channel broadcasts. The FCC concluded that the WSD testing failed. That was not FCC's most shining moment because it tested a defective device and did not bother to test the backup device Microsoft had sent.

More recently in early Dec 2007, the Google Public Policy blog announced that Google "met last week with some of the FCC's engineers and presented encouraging test results based on ongoing trials of wireless technologies" related to the white spaces.

Clearly, Google is very committed to opening up new channels for Internet access, wireless channels in particular. Other young tech companies (as opposed to old telecom companies) are also very much interested in seeing such channels open up. It is going to be very hard to stop them. They will succeed sooner or later.

The day is not very far off when we will have free wireless Internet access in most parts of the human-populated world, just as we have free TV broadcasts today. This does not mean paid Internet service will go away. Just like we have paid premium-content TV channels now, we will also have paid premium-speed (read very high speed) Internet access as well. But what passes for broadband speeds in most of the US today, will be available wirelessly, for free, in the not too distant future.

YouTube App for Helio Ocean

The Google Mobile blog talks about the custom-built YouTube app from Helio which lets you watch, record, upload, and share YouTube videos on your Helio Ocean phone:
You can even let everyone know where you shot a video by attaching a "geo-tag," which includes the GPS coordinates for the location where you shot the video.

You can also personalize your YouTube experience on the Helio Ocean by customizing your video feeds like My Subscriptions, My Favorites, My Playlists, My Videos and Received Videos. Of course, you can always view traditional YouTube categories like Most Viewed, Most Recent, Top Rated and Recently Featured.

Note that this YouTube app is from Helio and not from Google. It would be nice if Google released a similar app for mobile phones. Right now, YouTube has a mobile version of its website.

Links: GTalk translator bots, CallFreq Android app, Google's speech recognition training, UK spectrum auction, Google Mobile in Africa & India

  • Translation bots available for Google Talk - Just add a bot as a GTalk contact, send a message to it in one language and it will echo the message back in another language. For example, if you add as a GTalk contact and send it a message in English, it will echo the same message back to you in Spanish. Check the link for a list of other language-pair bots available from Google right now.
    Tip: If you have an IM app on your mobile phone which can communicate with your GTalk contacts, this could be used as a handy pocket translator. Be warned though, translations by these bots are not very accurate.

  • New Android App: CallFreq - Described as a "new generation of a phone dialer", which "intelligently analyzes the calling patterns of an Android communicator user and provide you only with the contacts that you currently need most". The current release sorts your contacts into those you call most frequently.

  • Google's speech recognition software is being trained by GOOG-411 phone service users. We can expect this training to be put to good use in future targetted mobile advertising algorithms as well.

  • Might Google be interested in bidding for the broadcast spectrum in UK? For those of you who might not know, UK is also planning on auctioning off the spectrum that is/was by analog TV service there. A spokesman for Google UK said that FCC restrictions meant that the company was not allowed to comment on its plans in this area anywhere in the world.

  • Google partners with Safaricom in South Africa to offer Google services on mobile phones there. Interestingly, it sounds like these services are being offered through the Google Apps route. Safaricom customers will have email addresses which are their mobile numbers followed by and those who cannot access Google services such as Gmail through their mobile phones can access it via Safaricom's website. Sure sounds like Google Apps to me. Good move there by Google - offering Apps to Safaricom and in turn extending its reach to their customers' cell phones.

  • Search Engine wars on mobile phones are sure heating up in India. There are seven times more mobile phone users in India than PC-owners. So, it is natural for Google, MSN and Yahoo! to fight it out for mobile users in India.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rumor: gPhone debut in Mobile World Congress?

The latest rumor to hit the blogosphere is that the godPhone might debut at the Mobile World Congress in February 2008. Why all the hoopla? Apparently, Google has booked two stands on the expo floor, which is making everybody wonder why Google needs so much space.

It will be interesting to see what Google has to show off at the expo. Whether or not any real gPhones are shown at the expo, one thing is for sure - there will be lot of publicity for Google's mobile apps and the mobile versions of their services.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Android Bugs : How bad is it right now?

A recent Wall Street Journal article about bugs in the Android SDK quoted a developer proclaim that Android is "clearly not ready for prime time". This led to a flurry of follow-up articles in traditional media and the blogosphere which would lead a casual reader to conclude that Android doesn't work!

The reality is not so bad. The WSJ article seems to be based mostly on the writer's interaction with one developer, and most other articles are merely regurgitated versions of the WSJ piece! There is a much better article on Arstechnica which concluded that "it's a mixed bag". This article is different from all the others in one important way: the author himself tried his hand at Android coding before writing the article.

The Arstechnica article quotes a Google developer who aptly sums up what seems to be the main issue facing Android developers right now: "it's a process problem, rather than a technical problem."

Yes, majority of the complaints from developers seems to be about:

1. Lack of 100% documentation about every single feature and functionality in the Android SDK.
2. More importantly, lack of a proper issue/bug tracking system which is public and up-to-date on the status of resolutions.

To make up for the lack no. 2 above, the Android development community has set up an independent Wiki to track known bugs. I am not sure how complete and up-to-date this Wiki is. Nevertheless, it is quite revealing: there are just 6 critical bugs and 24 non-critical bugs listed as of now, in addition to 5 feature requests.

I don't know about you, but being in software development for 10 years, I think those are damn good numbers for a very early, pre-release version of most non-mission critical software. So much for reports that claimed Android doesn't work!

[via Wall Street Journal and Arstechnica]

Android officially enters Japan

Japan's largest mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo Inc has tied up with Google to promote Google's mobile services such as Gmail, search, calendar and Picasa, to users of its mobile Internet service. DoCoMo is also considering offering an Android-based phone in the second half of 2008.

I came across many news reports with this information. Curiously, not one of the reports mentioned Android by name. In fact, none of them even mentioned any of the other Google products by their name, instead referring to Google's search, e-mail, scheduling and photo-saving features. Also, although this is an official and formal tie-up between DoCoMo and Google, there is no mention of whether or not DoCoMo joined the Open Handset Alliance. These omissions are rather conspicuous.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Google gives Calendar love for BlackBerry & Picasa love for iPhone

The Official Google Mobile blog announced some calendar love for BlackBerry & Picasa love for iPhone.

Google Sync for BlackBerry
You can now use the Google Sync for mobile to sync-up your Google Calendar with your BlackBerry's native calendar. Just point your BlackBerry's browser to and download Google Sync. From then on, any changes to your Google Calendar will appear on your BlackBerry calendar, and vice-versa.

Google Sync will two-way synchronise your BlackBerry with the default calendar associated with your Google account. You have the option of selecting other calendars to download, but you cannot update them from your BlackBerry. You have automatic or manual synchronization options. The automatic sync option checks for updates every two hours. You can also decide how far into the future you want to sync your BlackBerry and Google calendars. You can set the option to sync from 4 to 24 weeks.

Warning: If you use Reset Sync on the Options menu of Google Sync, it will delete all events on your BlackBerry calendar. Not just the ones inserted by Google Sync.

Picasa for iPhone
After Google's main page (as opposed to the iGoogle homepage) got a special version for the iPhone, it is now Picasa's turn. From the Google Mobile blog:
Today, I'm happy to tell you that we've just released this new iPhone interface for Picasa. After you go to Picasa on your iPhone and log in, you can quickly see all your albums that you've uploaded to Picasa Web. If you click on any of the albums, you can get a full view of your picture with comments from your friends. Or you can click on Slideshow, sit back and watch the pictures scroll. You can also search for photos in your album or through community photos. Finally, with one of my favorite features, you can view your friends' albums through favorites.

What are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch go to and check it out.

Compared to any other mobile browser, the only extra feature for Picasaweb on the iPhone seems to be the slideshow feature. And I am sure the pictures look much better on the iPhone, of course.

It is worth noting that Google is targetting recent features and updates to the BlackBerry, the most popular phone in the enterprise space, and to the iPhone, the most [insert iPhone/Apple fanboy adjective here] phone in the consumer space. This is a sure sign that Google wants to play on the mobile phones of both the business users and the non-business users.

[via Official Google Mobile blog]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Engadget Interviews Peter Chou, CEO of HTC

Engadget scored an interview with Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, the top Asian cellphone maker . Frankly, I don't know what to make of the interview.

Majority of the interview questions were about Android. Unfortunately, the HTC CEO gave very few specific, clear answers. To begin with, he is not a native English speaker, and "some of his replies have been edited (by Engadget) for clarity". To compound matters, there was a certain ambiguity in his answers, which seemed deliberate. And then, he was trying to be politically correct vis-a-vis the Windows Mobile platform (HTC is a big maker of Win Mobile handsets).

For some reason, Engadget seemed to frame many of the Android questions, pitching it against Windows Mobile. This was unnecessary, and it seemed to put Peter Chou on the defensive. He was being very careful not to appear to say anything bad about Win Mobile. Perhaps, he might have answered with more openness if Engadget had asked about Android, without referring to Win Mobile in the same breath.

About two-thirds of the way down into the interview, Jason Gordon, HTC Global Director of Communications, added his two cents to his CEO's response. After this point, the language of the answers changed. But we are not sure if this is because of Engadget's editing of Peter Chou's responses, or if Jason Gordon continued to answer all questions from then on. However, the change in langauge did not lead to any more clarity in the responses. HTC continued to give safe answers, so as not to ruffle their partners, be they Microsoft or the US wireless carriers.

Just about the only clear answer was given when Engadget asked if HTC was going to put Android on any of their existing hardware:
Is that something you have the intention of doing? Using current hardware platforms to run Android?


So it's still going to be about the vertically integrated approach going forward? Not just about throwing any operating system on any piece of hardware.

Right. But, of course, we have a lot of the latest leading-edge wireless technology, so some of our software can definitely leverage that. But products need to be very specific. Today, people really interface with and are really passionate about [our] products, so they need to feel something really unique about them.

So, at least we know that HTC is designing totally new handset models for Android. It will be interesting to see how different the hardware specifications for Android will be compared to some of their existing smartphones.

[via Engadget]

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Links: Android running, 700 MHz Auction guide, Cellphone service survey, Object DB for Android

Android's and iPhone's security compared?

When you see an article grandly titled, "Google's Android vs. Apple's iPhone: Which is More Secure?", what might you expect? That somebody has managed to compare the Android and iPhone systems in terms of:
  1. How easy it is to hack into the system, snoop around for information, control the system, etc.
  2. How easy it is to infect the system with virus, spyware and other such malicious software.
  3. How easy it is to prevent or clean-up after such attacks.
And similar other questions.

Instead, Kenneth van Wyk, a "20-year veteran of IT security" and "co-author of two security-related books", compares the two systems on the following basis and gives them the following grades:
  1. In Android, each application is assigned its own unique Linux user-ID at the time of installation and this ID is used to run the application. Where as, in the iPhone, "applications appear to all run with root (administrative) privileges on a single UNIX kernel". Based on this difference (and appearance), Android gets an A- grade and iPhone gets an F or "F-, if that’s possible".
  2. Android is an open system, which has led to at least one product vendor announcing the development of security applications. We have heard of no such thing about the closed iPhone system. Grades: Android B, iPhone D.
  3. iPhone has a well-developed and easy system for providing updates and patches through iTunes. We don't know of any such thing for Android. Individual handset makers will probably have to come up with their own update and patching process for their particular phones. Grades: Android INCOMPLETE, iPhone B+.
And, after this very arbitrary and subjective comparison, he declares Android to be the more secure platform!

Granted, at the very beginning of the article, Kenneth van Wyk, admits that there is no Android handset available right now for him to compare with the iPhone. So, this is an "apples and oranges" comparison. Nevertheless, this comparison and conclusion is not convincing enough.

In fact, it is very obvious that the open nature of Android, the ease of development of applications which control the phone's features and functionality, and the corresponding ease in installing such applications will see a proliferation of malicious software for the phone. The more popular Android becomes, the more threats there will be. It is actually a pretty scary situation to imagine something as personal as the cell phone being compromised. Imagine someone getting access to all your most personal information and conversations. Imagine someone using your phone to silently route expensive calls, for which you get dinged on your bill!

I think it is too early to comment on how secure future Android handsets will be. We can comment only on what is available now - Android SDK. And, it is certain too early to compare just the SDK with the iPhone to reach any convincing conclusion right now.

[via Earthweb]

Friday, December 7, 2007

Google Mobile Updater for BlackBerry

Google Mobile Updater BlackBerry Screenshot Google has released a one-click app to update all the Google Mobile products on your BlackBerry.

This might seem a little pointless right now. Google has only two phone-installed mobile apps (as opposed to web apps) which may need updates to be installed on your phone. These apps are of course, GMail and Google Maps. Almost all other Google mobile apps are web-based, always loading their latest version on your phone's browser.

So, what does the Google Mobile Updater do? Apart from updating GMail and Google Maps apps on your phone, it puts handy short-cuts to the other web-based mobile apps. Creating short-cuts right there on the phone might seem like a small change, but it could lead to a huge surge in the usage of these apps due to the ease of access. In the absence of these short-cuts, users had to type in the URL of the apps on their phone's browser.

When I installed the Mobile Updater on my BlackBerry, I chose to install all the products it would install. Apart from installing the Mobile Updater itself, it updated my GMail and Google Maps apps, and created shortcuts for only the following mobile apps/services: Search, Picasa, Docs and News. Whenever there is an update to be installed, the Mobile Updater icon on the phone will change to show a green arrow:
Google Mobile Updater Icon showing updates available

You can get the Mobile Updater by visiting on the BlackBerry's web browser. The Mobile Updater is only available for BlackBerry right now. No doubt, there will be versions available for other phones soon enough.

[via Official Google Mobile Blog]
[Image courtesy: Official Google Mobile Blog]

Related: Google Mobile: Products and Countries Lists

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Android Developer Challenge: Real-time Android Emulator

Here's a fun project for those of you participating in the Android Developer Challenge.

Create a desktop emulator, which mimics everything that's happening on your Android phone screen... in real time.

I know, the Android SDK already comes with an emulator. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about an emulator on your computer screen showing you the exact same thing that's happening on your Android phone screen, while it is happening. This would seem almost as if the images from your Android phone were being projected onto the computer screen via Bluetooth or WiFi. But, it's not just a projection of screen images. It should be a full functional emulator, which allows you to do everything your Android phone can do.

Couple of scenarios off the top of my head where this would be fun:
  • Suppose you are sitting at your computer in one room of the house, and your Android phone is somewhere in the pocket of your pants, in the wardrobe, at the other end of the house. When a call comes in on your phone, you should be able to accept the call and have a conversation through the emulator on your computer screen. You should be able to make calls, send and receive text messages, play phone games or use any of the fun applications that run on your phone, via the emulator.

  • In another scenario, suppose your Android phone gets stolen. You should be able to bring up the emulator on your computer and see exactly what the thief is doing with your phone, listen in on his calls, etc.. Heck, you should even be able to control the phone's camera to take a picture of the thief and/or his surroundings.

No doubt, there are many other interesting scenarios or applications where such an emulator would be useful.

The best part of this project is that, the Android SDK already has an emulator. So, developers just have to figure out a way to connect the real phone to the emulator, and make them mimic each other.

Sound like fun yet? Yeah, I thought so!

Related: Android Developer Challenge: Application Idea

Android Developer Podcast

The Android Developer blog posted a podcast by two architects on the Android engineering team, Dianne Hackborn and Jason Parks:
Dianne and Jason share a background at both Be and PalmSource, and talk about how that experience has been applied to Android. Other topics covered include:
  • Some history behind the project
    The high level architecture of Android. For example, how Linux processes handle the VM and manage security (the VM doesn't handle it)
  • Details on the Dalvik VM and how it is optimized for small devices
  • The architecture: From Intents to Views to Permissions and more
  • How XML is slow, but the tools convert the XML to a nicer format for you
  • The tooling and steps for building an application on Android
  • How so many objects have a URL, and how the environment is like a mini-SOA (Services across processes instead of across the network)
  • Thoughts on how you program for small devices, and things to watch out for if you move from the desktop
  • The control, or lack of control that you have over the application lifecycle
  • "Everything you do drains the battery"
  • The thread story: they exist, you don't have to deal with them if you don't want to, and the UI
  • Using XMPP for messaging

That's quite a list! I have not heard the podcast yet, but if something in it screams out at me when I listen to it, I will be sure to blog about it.

You can download the podcast here: Android Developer podcast by Dianne Hackborn and Jason Parks

[via Android Developer blog]

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Harold Feld's 4 reasons why Google intends to win the 700 MHz Auction

So far we have seen fanboy optimism that Google will bid in the 700 MHz spectrum to win, cycnical suggestions by analysts and bloggers that Google will not bid to win, and even a pseudo-psycho interpretation of Google's words on its intent to win.

Finally, we have something a little more reasoned: Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of the Media Access Project, snorts some oak leaves and gives Four Reasons Why Google Will Bid To Win in the 700 MHz Auction. The reasons listed are (in the words of Harold Feld):
  1. Google Has A Different Vision For the Wireless World It Can Only Achieve By Owning Licenses.
  2. Google Has No Desire To Be A Network Provider. But It Wants To Be A Network Architect.
  3. Anonymous Bidding Changes Everything.
  4. When Google Commits, It Does So All The Way.

Harold Feld offers excellent arguments supporting each reason. Just one example:
For Google, more than wireless is at stake. Google can read the writing on the wall for wireline, even if dumbass regulators in DC can't. Given enough time, the cable/DSL duopoly will gradually morph away from the existing open internet model to become more and more like wireless is today: you buy a basic contract for the core service and everything else costs extra. The provider bundles everything, controls the nature of outside attachments, applications, etc., etc., always taking its chunk off the top and driving up the price to everyone else. But if Google is successful in transforming the wireless world, it will also stop the transformation of the wireline world. By contrast, if Google can't stop the transformation of the wireless world, it is probably screwed on the wireline side as well.
This is the type of well-thought analyses we'd like to see more often in the blogosphere, as opposed to the usual tech blogging at warp speed. Needless to say, I have long given up hopes of any real tech analysis of good value coming out of the MSM*.

[via Wetmachine]

Google announces participation in 700 MHz Auction
Does Google intend to win the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction?

*MSM = Main Stream Media

New Google interface for iPhones

Good news for iPhone (or iPod Touch) users. The Google Mobile blog has announced a new Google interface for iPhones which it describes as "fast and fluid":
Our guiding principles were "fast" and "fluid." We think we've achieved both, thanks to some AJAX magic made possible by the iPhone's Safari browser. To try it out, just go to on your iPhone.

There are some screenshots posted, but screen shots are not the best way to show a "fast and fluid" interface. Why didn't they just post a video on Youtube? I am sure someone will post a video of this soon enough. I will keep an eye out for the video and update this blog soon as it is available.

Considering that iPhone's Safari browser is based on the same WebKit engine as Android's browser, will this be available for Android as well? If not, when? I have posted the question on the blog post.

[via Google Mobile blog]

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gmail interface for AIM

As predicted by the Google Operating System blog (no connection to this blog), Google Talk in Gmail has 'integrated' with AIM.

As per the Official Gmail blog, this feature is only available to Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2 users. In other words, it is only available in the new version Gmail.

Also, you need to login to AIM through Gmail chat, to be able to see your AIM buddies and interact with them. That means, this is not true cross interaction between the GTalk system and AIM system. Gmail is just providing another interface for the AIM system via the Open AIM framework. An example of true interaction between different instant messaging platforms is Yahoo! Messenger users being able to chat with Windows Live Messenger users without needing an MSN / Live ID.

I have a few questions for Google / Gmail / GTalk team:

1. Two years after first announcing that GTalk and AIM will communicate, the best you could do is just give a Gmail chat interface for AIM users? What was the roadblock for giving us true interaction between the two messaging platforms?

2. If you are just going to build Gmail / GTalk interface to other instant messaging platforms, and require the users to explicitly login to that platform, why not provide similar interfaces to Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger? Connecting to Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger would have been a bigger offering to your users, considering the much larger number of people who are already on these other systems. If the small team could do it (very nicely), surely you can do it too?

3. What about the GTalk desktop client? When is it going to see some much needed upgrade?

[via Official Gmail blog]

Verizon makes it official: We are open to Android

Since almost nobody (AFAIK*) seemed to be getting it, except this blog, Verizon itself had to come out and make the announcement in the BusinessWeek: Verizon Embraces Google's Android.
(Verizon Wireless's) Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam says it now makes sense to get behind Android. "We're planning on using Android," McAdam tells BusinessWeek. "Android is an enabler of what we do."
When Verizon executives and engineers examined Android's software tool kit, however, they were impressed. "Clearly the Android system gives a lot of developers the opportunity to develop applications for a wide range of handsets," says McAdam. Not only did the company decide to support Android, but McAdam says the new platform was a key influence in adopting open access. "Android really facilitated this move,"says McAdam.

Verizon's acceptance of Android should have been obvious from its previous announcement of opening its network to "any device, any app" in 2008. Yet, BusinessWeek still terms this as "yet another sudden shift" by Verizon!

You might want to checkout the BusinessWeek article, because it has some of the so-far-elusive background story leading upto Verizon's decision of opening its network. Apparently, talks of opening their network were going on among the highest executives at Verizon for almost a year now! That makes you wonder why they went to the extent of suing FCC over the open access requirements of the 700 MHz auction!

[via BusinessWeek]

Related: Verizon opens up to Android

*AFAIK = As Far As I Know

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More speculation on Google's plans for the 700 MHz spectrum

The Digital Home blog on speculates that after winning the 700 MHz spectrum auction, Google will change this industry forever.

The author Don Reisinger thinks Google will do two things with the 700 MHz spectrum (he pretty much assumes that Google will win it):
  1. Offer VoIP calling over the spectrum which will "destroy the cell phone industry as we know it today".
  2. Offer free nationwide Wi-Fi, giving "serious problems" to current ISPs, and resulting in almost every device ("HDTVs, for example") having WiFi connectivity options.

Sounds like Brother Reisinger's faith in Google is huge, unshakeable and total. And to think it is people like these that Google might disappoint, almost make us cry!

[via The Digital Home on CNET]

Related: Will Google do an Android with the 700 MHz Spectrum?

Does Google intend to win the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction?

Suppose three different players of a team tell you right before a big match, "Whether we win or lose this match, the game and spectators will always be the winners!" Now what would you think of that team's chances of winning?

That is correct: not much. I have heard similar statements from commentators in the media after India lost big cricket matches. But I never thought I'd hear such words from Google. But this is exactly what Google's official line seems to be, with only a few more weeks to go before the 700 MHz spectrum auction.

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt in the press release announcing Google's intentions to bid:
"No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."

Google's co-founder Larry Page as quoted in Fortune magazine's Techland blog:
“I don’t think we feel like there is a desperate need for us to have to bid to win or anything like that,” Page told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call last month. “We have many, many different options available to us as a company in terms of spectrum.”

Finally, the very title of the Official Google blog post by Chris Sacca, Google Head of Special Initiatives, announcing their auction entry, pretty much seems to say it directly:
Who's going to win the spectrum auction? Consumers.

Even if Google did not intend to bid in the auction to win, why would its official stand be so blantantly obvious? Is this a deliberate ploy to convey the message that Google is not all that desperate to win (which is quite true, anyway)?

I wrote in the previous post that I don't believe Google will not bid to win. Now that sounds like fanboy optimism even to my own self. The above quotes from Google are not very encouraging. There are a lot of fanboys out there who have high hopes that Google will ride in like a knight in shining armor and rescue American consumers from the tight clutches of incumbent evil telcos. They are going to be mighty disappointed if Google does not win the 700 MHz auction.

And, if Google does not even put up a sincere and honest fight? Could be a bad PR move, which would bring down Google's image a few notches down.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Google announces participation in 700 MHz Auction

Google has ended all doubts (there were indeed some who doubted) and announced that it will indeed participate in the 700 MHz auction.

Here's the Official Google Blog making this announcement: Who's going to win the spectrum auction? Consumers.

And the press release: Google Will Apply to Participate in FCC Spectrum Auction.

The blog post is more detailed than the press release, giving a basic primer on the auction process for the next few months. After this announcement, Google can talk no more about the auction until the auction ends. This is explained in the blog post as well:
Monday, December 3, is the deadline for prospective bidders to apply with the FCC to participate in the auction. Though the auction itself won't start until January 24, 2008, Monday also marks the starting point for the FCC's anti-collusion rules, which prevent participants in the auction from discussing their bidding strategy with each other.

These rules are designed to keep the auction process fair, by keeping bidders from cooperating in anticompetitive ways so as to drive the auction prices in artificial directions. While these rules primarily affect private communications among prospective bidders, the FCC historically has included all forms of public communications in its interpretation of these rules.

All of this means that, as much as we would like to offer a step-by-step account of what's happening in the auction, the FCC's rules prevent us from doing so until the auction ends early next year.

Another interesting point about the auction process: the auction will be completely anonymous - nobody will know what anybody else is bidding and who has won each block of the spectrum until the auction ends probably in March 2008.

Now that the question of whether or not Google will participate in the auction is settled, there are still some people who are speculating that Google will not bid to win. They claim that Google will only participate as a formality, since it has made so much noise about this auction already. There are few others who say that Google will bid upto the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block spectrum, in order to ensure that the pre-conditions of allowing any application and any device to use the network will remain safely in place. The FCC has mentioned that if there are no bids which at least match the reserve price, these pre-conditions will be taken off and fresh bids welcomed.

That last point makes a little more sense, but I don't believe that Google will not bid to win. Google knows the worth of this prime spectrum. Billions of dollars is not small money. But compared to the value of what can be done on this spectrum, it is fair money... may be even a low price! So, I believe that Google will bid to win... unless something totally unexpected or outrageous happens. I cannot even speculate on what that could be.

[via The Official Google Blog and Google Press Center]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Google Maps mobile with "My Location": Privacy Loophole

I had quoted earlier from the Google Help page on Google Maps mobile's My Location feature, that it was totally private and Google did not record or store any person's or phone's identifiable information, tied to a particular location.

The New York Times' Bits blog has this to say about a loop-hole when you use Google Maps mobile which has the My Location feature to do a search for say a close-by business:
The payoff for Google from building out its mapping service is to get people to conduct searches from their cellphones. This is a nice feature. Push a button on the map software, type “Starbucks” and it will display a map of the closest source of a latte fix, based on the cell tower or GPS data. The catch, is that this query, with your location, is entered in Google’s log files along with your phone’s unique ID.

So, the "My Location" feature itself will not uniquely identify you. But doing a search will uniquely identify your phone, and tie it to a location. That is a damned good catch by the Bits blog, I say!

Needless to say, if Google wants, it can tie your uniquely identifiable phone to the uniquely identifiable Google login ID you might use on the phone. I am not saying that Google does that. I am saying that Google can do that. Perhaps, under pressure from a subpoena or the Chinese government?

[via the The New York Times' Bits blog]

Group Chat on new version of Gmail

After the Google Talk gadget, it is Gmail's turn to offer group chat. Apparently, the group chat feature will work only if all the people invited to the group chat are also on a version of gadget or Gmail that has the group chat feature. So, if your buddy is on the old version of Gmail or using the GTalk desktop client, s/he won't be able to join the group chat.

[Via Google Operating System blog]

Link: Android Projects that caught Google's eye so far...

[via Android Developer Blog]

Google Mobile: Products & Countries Lists

Google has a mobile-friendly page which lists its mobile products available in your country:

Each product is presented as a link and clicking on it takes you to that product. In mobile format, of course.

Tip: You can bookmark that always up-to-date products page on your phone's browser, to quickly access all the Google mobile services available to you. Neat.

At the bottom of the products page is a link which reads: Not in [country name]? That takes you to another mobile-friendly page:

This page lists all the countries where Google has some mobile service available. Right now it lists 56 countries. Doesn't that number appear a little on the low side? There are about 192 or 194 countries in the world. Would you not be able to access at least Gmail (or Google Mail - it's not called Gmail in all the countries!) on the phone in any of these countries, if you could access the Internet on the phone? Don't tell me you cannot access the Internet on the phone in 136 or 138 countries in the world!

Official Google Mobile Blog launched!

Yesterday, Google launched the Official Google Mobile Blog!

Get the Google Mobile Blog's Atom feed here or the Feedburner feed here.

Google Maps for Mobile: Now location aware without GPS!

Google Maps for mobile phones has announced a new feature called My Location (still in beta). This feature brings an approximate location information to Google Maps on your mobile phone, even if the phone does not have GPS functionality. Google uses cell tower identification to provide the location information. So, a lot depends on the number of cell towers at the location. The accuracy could be off by as much as a couple of kilometers (over one-and-a-quarter mile).

Here's a video from Google explaining how this feature works:

The My Location feature is available on a few selected devices right now.

Regarding the all important question that lot of people would have, this is what Google Help says:
Will Google always know where I am if I use My Location (beta)?

No, Google does not know who you are when you use Google Maps for mobile. All handsets are anonymous. When you use our product, we do not collect personal information like your username or phone number, so we do not know who owns or is using the handset. Therefore, when we identify approximate location [as part of the My Location feature], all we can determine is the approximate location of the handset. This location information is also only in our system when a user has opted-in to the My Location (beta) service. If the My Location (beta) feature is disabled, we will not continue to send radio information back to Google servers to determine your handset's approximate location while you use Google Maps for mobile.

Good job answering that question upfront!

Android Update: This feature is sure to be available in future versions of Android (if it is not already). This means, any Android application which needs your location information would work, kind of, even if your Android cell phone does not have GPS! Wow!

IMPORTANT "My Location" Update: Google Maps mobile with "My Location": Privacy Loophole

[via the very new Official Google Mobile Blog and Bits blog]

700 MHz Build-out: New Entrants vs Incumbents

Wired Blog Network's Epicenter has a very interesting comparison of the build-out by new entrants versus existing telecom organizations, should they win the 700 MHz spectrum auction. Four important aspects are compared - deployment approach, technology choice, business model and time to market.

Most interestingly, this comparison is not based on the 'philosophical positions on open vs. closed networks" of the new entrants and the incumbents. The comparison is rather based on practical considerations such as constraints of legacy sites and systems, existing core business, and the attention split between current operations and the new spectrum usage. This leads to some interesting conclusions.

For example, most people think that if an incumbent telecom company wins the 700 MHz spectrum auction, it would make this spectrum available to the end-users much faster than a new entrant. The reasoning is that the incumbent already has the necessary infrastructure in place, where as the new entrant would take years to build such infrastructure. The Epicenter article argues that the opposite might be true. A new entrant's revenue is dependent on rapidly delivering the new spectrum to end-users and so, there is more motivation to move quickly. Where as, an incumbent's time and attention is split with the "revenue-generating" existing operations, which could slow things down. Worse, the incumbent might deliberately slow things to avoid impact to the existing "core business".

One thing is for sure: this comparison gives us reasons to wish even more strongly that at least a part of the 700 MHz spectrum being auctioned off is won by a new entrant, such as Google.

[via >> Epicenter]

Related: Will Google do an Android with the 700 MHz Spectrum?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Verizon opens up to Android

Many people have been writing that Verizon's recent announcement to open up its network by the end of 2008 is a reaction to the Google-led Open Handset Alliance. Unbelievably, some people are even seeing this move as a competition to OHA! Others are asking if Verizon will join the OHA after this move. But they are missing out on a different slant to this news: Verizon is opening up to Android-based g(od)Phones!

Verizon has announced that, "any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network." Unless something goes very, very bad, there will be lots of Android phones which meet Verizon's minimum technical standards. With this move, Verizon has opened upto Android without even joining the Open Handset Alliance.

Why does Verizon need to join the OHA, anyway? I personally believe that this is a more solid announcement favoring Android by a non-OHA carrier than the same old vague tunes from OHA-member Sprint Nextel!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Android Developer Challenge inhibiting geek cooperation?

Looks like developers on an open source platform like Android are not so open to sharing, after all? Bad developers! Just kidding. Can't blame them when a pot worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is at stake!

Garett Rogers writes that knowledgeable developers are not being very generous in sharing code samples due to the Android Developer Challenge. The challenge is having the effect of slowing down developers, instead of the other way around.

The slow-down part may be true. The prize money might indeed be inhibiting developers from sharing the best of their knowledge. However, the prize money has caused a much larger number of developers to start messing with Android pronto, than would be the case otherwise. So, the ADC is still a good idea.

As for sharing code samples, Garett Rogers says all is not lost:
I’m sure by the time March 3rd (the cutoff for submissions) rolls around, there will be plenty of code available to help inexperienced developers make ideas come to life. Maybe this is why Google decided to to host the same contest again after the first one ends?


Will Google do an Android with the 700 MHz Spectrum?

Will Google do an Android with the 700 MHz Spectrum? That is, give it away for free to multiple carrier partners who promise to play open?

I came across this excellent analysis on Google’s True Agenda with the 700 MHz Spectrum auction. It was a delight to read, despite the less-than-perfect grammar.

Granted, it is all speculation and conjecture at this point. But to gauge the quality of that post you should compare it to the Wall Street Journal article Google Has Even Bigger Plans for Mobile Phones, which is just a hash of rumors from "people familiar with the matter". The Guru of tech bloggers Om Malik described the Wall Street Journal article as a report about Google’s big mobile plans is one that covers all bases, and leaves you where you started from: scratching your head.

I don't know who has written the Penny College article, but I bet s/he is an engineer. S/he presents coherent and convincing arguments for its conclusion, which is:
So what is Google’s true intent then? How could it participate in the auction while still preserving its goal of rapid development while guaranteeing user access to its services and software? The solution is simple, yet it has been overlooked by most business analysts and technology pundits - Google will be purchasing the spectrum and open it to all providers free of charge under one condition, that providers allow any software and services (Including Android) to run on it without further interference or extra charges. Basically, Google is intending on preserving or creating telecom democracy through financial incentives.

That's just a teaser. You should visit the original article and get all the juicy details there. Couple of points about this article's conclusions:
  • Although it makes sense that Google will allow many different carriers to use the spectrum it might win, I don't believe that Google will just give away prime spectrum for free to any carrier.
  • I am not sure how multiple carriers can technically use the same frequency in the same place as this article suggestions.


Different take on the imaginary Google vs Sun splat

The blogosphere has been abuzz in recent days over the impending splat between Google and Sun over how Google has chosen to implement Android. Android does not use the Java Micro Edition. Instead, Google wrote its own virtual machine Dalvik. So, there will be absolutely no revenue to Sun from the success of Android. The thinking is that if Android becomes spectacularly popular, Sun will see what it's losing and so it might sue Google. Here's a different take on the issue: Sun/Google Android “fight” overblown.
While Android is based on a machine-independent VM architecture that compiles and runs code written in the Java language, it’s not exactly Java (Tee eM). In particular it’s a complete break from Sun’s Java ME (Micro Edition) offering. A lot of propeller heads get their beanies in a twist whenever someone steps off the “standards” path, so predictably there were cries of “Why couldn’t they just use Java ME?” But I believe there are many folks at Sun who are quietly saying “I wish we could have done that.”

Let’s face it, how many developers really like Java ME? How many can describe the difference between CLDC, CDC and MIDP? Between Foundation, Personal Basis, and Personal profiles? How many consider javax.microedition.lcdui the pinnacle of user interface design? Not many. (And if you’re one of them, you should seriously consider therapy). Java ME has years of baggage and legacy API that Android ignores. Over-complicated, and under-compatible, Java ME had backed itself into a corner, leaving the field open for competitors like Flash Lite to gain ground. Google’s initiative opens a new chapter for Java (or ‘Java-like’, if you insist) technology.

However, Google did make one big mistake with Android, the same mistake that IBM made years ago - it cut them out of the process, at least in perception if not in fact. In IBM’s case this resulted in a culture of distrust and dis-harmony (pun intended) between the two companies that continues today. Sun/IBM unity behind Java is a lost cause. But in Google’s case, the outcome can/will/must be different.


Jaiku's role in Android

Jonathan Mulholland talks about Jaiku's role in the Android platform in his post What Google has planned for Jaiku?
Jaiku potentially gives Google the Holy Grail - time relevant, location based targeting of information, personalised to a very high degree. Google + Jaiku is not a million miles away from being able to push appropriate advertising to individuals based on their profile, their location and their availability. Imagine walking down the high street and having your mobile phone pop up with a Google notification telling you that Heroes DVD box sets were 20% off at HMV today, or that a new Indian restaurant had just opened in that part of town. Some may find that scary, and reminiscent of scenes from the film Minority Report, obviously as a technology ‘enthusiast’ I’m thrilled at the possibilities it opens up.

It seems obvious that Jaiku is destined to become an integral part of the the Android platform over the next year. No doubt Google will want the Jaiku engineering teams expertise in building the features outlined above into the Android offering. This is why I think Google went for Jaiku, and this is why I think Jaiku has a big role to play in the next phase of Google’s advertising platform.

If this isn’t what Google has planned for Jaiku, they should certainly think about it.

In that post, he also talks about why Google preferred Jaiku and not Twitter.


Anti-virus for Android

SMobile Systems, which designs security software for mobile phones, has announced that it has tweaked its main security software suite to run on Android.

Today, SMobile Systems announced its standard security offering, called SecurityShield(TM) -- an integrated application that includes anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall protection-- is up and running on the Android operating system.

"We believe that the launch of Android powered phones will usher in a period when the use of smartphones will skyrocket," said Rick Roscitt, chairman and chief executive officer, SMobile Systems. "As more consumers in the U.S. begin using their mobile devices as mini-computers for surfing the web and downloading third-party applications, mobile security becomes of paramount importance. Without security, millions of people could be at risk for hackers, spammers and others intent on stealing crucial personal, financial and even health information from their new Google-powered phones."

The company plans on adapting the remainder of their applications to the Android platform in the coming weeks and months. Additionally, SMobile plans on creating new security products specifically tailored to Android, including an advanced application level firewall and system monitor. Currently, the Android platform does not allow the user to decide whether an application can make phones calls, send text or multi-media messages or make connections to the Internet during normal device use. This means that a virus can pose as an application and do things like dial phone numbers, send text messages and other functions that can cost the user money and leave their highly personal information vulnerable. The new technologies under development at SMobile will protect users against these new threats.

The hell's army of spammers, phishers, hackers and virus-makers are just looking for any open door, window or hole to exploit your system and your wallet. Given the openness of the Android platform, this is a welcome announcement.

Given that many applications which mash Google's services on Android will need access to our Google account password, I wonder what type of security Android has incorporated to protect our passwords. Time to go hunting for the answer... If you know it already, save me some time and post it in the comments. :)


Monday, November 26, 2007

AT&T's questions for Android

Epicenter, Wired's business blog managed to get a little more response from AT&T, than the vague "analyzing the situation" stance that was in the news last week. In the article AT&T Articulates its Open Handset Alliance Concerns:
Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal recently reported, AT&T's lack of OHA involvement does not seem to be linked to any contractual agreement with Apple. Instead, like everyone else, the company is simply waiting to see what this whole alliance business will mean for the mobile industry.

A company spokesman did get back to EPICENTER and outlined some of the company's more pressing concerns re: Google's Android and the happy-go-lucky alliance.

According to AT&T, those questions include:
  • What will customers get on an Android-powered phone that they can't get on their current devices? New content? New applications?

  • Will the system be secure enough to prevent viruses, hacking and other potential problems?

  • What safeguards will be in place to protect customer's privacy?

  • If Gmail is the default e-mail, how easy will it be for customers to access other email platforms?
In other words, how much is Google's new OS going to crap up the traditional carrier business model and take control away from likes of AT&T and Verizon?

Is Google's clear vision short-sighted?

Fortune magazine has a dramatically titled article: Is Google spinning out of control?:
Google has just announced two extraordinarily ambitious strategic gambits in the span of a week, and I'm not convinced that it can pull either of them off.

First the company announced OpenSocial, a hasty attempt to smother social-network phenom Facebook by pulling together an alliance of more than 50 of that upstart's peers and competitors. The idea is twofold: to make it easier for software developers to build universally compatible applications and to open up social websites to newfangled forms of targeted "social advertising," something Facebook actually started offering the next week.

Then Google (Charts) took the wraps off something even bigger: a grand plan to redefine the cellphone. Through the so-called Open Handset Alliance, Google will provide software and programming protocols for others to employ in building a new class of smartphone handsets and cellular information services. Once again, the unspoken goal is to create handheld billboards for blasting even more ads at us.

The article acknowledges that Google is trying to create a platforms in the online social networking and mobile communications space. But then, it says that the author is not convinced Google can pull it off simply because "this kind of software is hard"! Okay, thanks for stating the obvious. Anything more? The article concludes with the following statement about Google's "clear vision of the future" :
Google doesn't seem to take into account the most fundamental rule of high tech: Don't mistake a clear view for a short distance.

Seriously, does anybody really think that Google is so short-sighted?

State of Organizational Development for Android

Technewsworld asks: Will Developers Embrace Android?

The article seems to be based on information from mostly organizational developers. The article says at the very top:
The idea of creating an open source blank slate for mobile phones is appealing to developers, but many have their priorities set for them by their employers. With mobile development growing ever busier, dropping everything and working on Android often isn't the main goal.

No wonder the article said, "Lots of Interest, Not Much Action", as far as Android development goes. If you mostly talk to independent mobile development organizations, of course they will say that they are focussing on their existing clients and on the handsets/platforms which are already popular in the market. We don't need an article to tell us that.

As far as organizational development goes, we would expect that the bulk of it is happening right now among the members of the Open Handset Alliance. It would have been more interesting to know the state of Android development in the OHA. Where are they right now? What is the progress in the development of different versions of the g(od)Phone? What are their experiences working with Android? Do they have any early prototype hardware / software to show us?

I keenly looked for any mentions of OHA members in the article. There was one small quote at the very end from Sprint Nextel, which was not very encouraging:
It's too early to tell what will happen, but the company's philosophy is to be open, said Scott Sloat, a Sprint Nextel spokesperson.

"It would be against the grain to sign on to this, and then say, 'Hold on a sec, we aren't going to let you do these things,' " he said. "By the same token, we owe it to the customers to make sure their data is protected. Yes, we are going to be open, but we have a duty to make sure the customer and network are protected."

Protect customer and the network! Hasn't that been the constant tune of all carriers for why their phones and networks are so closed? From the sound of this, even some of the OHA members don't seem to be too enthusiastic about giving us anything that's too 'open'. I must say, no surprises there!

Android Security concerns = Generic security concerns

Google's Android platform could complicate security : This article on expresses security concerns regarding a mobile device running Android. All the concerns turn out to be generic ones when:

(a) Users have the free ability to install software applications which access their device's core functionality (such as making calls, sending sms, using the camera, etc. for a phone).

(b) Such a device connects to the corporate network.

So, there is really no security concern in the article that is hyper-specific to Android... such as, say a security hole or bug in the platform.

Android Developer Challenge: Application Idea

SUNDAY MONEY: Cell phones boost social networking is a generic article about social networking using cell phones by Asbury Park Press. OMG!! You can use a phone that accesses the Internet for online for social networking!!! OMG!!!! That's right. You can safely skip the article. However, there was this in the middle of the article:
Andy Rubin, Google's director of mobile platforms, imagines, among other things, an instant-messaging-like buddy list that is "sorted by how close they are to me no matter where I am. That can be pretty cool."

How many developers participating in the Android Developer Challenge are already working on such an application?

Good introductory article on Android for noobs

Finding freedom in a cell phone via Android in Nashua Telegraph is a good introductory article on Android for people who might have never heard about it. Others may safely skip it.

Quotes from the article:
With this operating system, Google aims to give wireless users three freedoms routinely denied in the United States.

The most basic one is the freedom to use the Web as you want. We take this for granted on personal computers, except when an Internet service provider gets caught restricting access in some sneaky fashion. (The latest example is Comcast, which has interrupted the use of BitTorrent, a popular system for music and video downloads.)

Not so on phones, which may keep you from going where you want on the Web. A carrier's terms of use may ban entire classes of Internet applications, such as Web radio or videos.

Then comes the freedom to add the programs you want. Palm OS and Windows Mobile phones allow this choice, but most don't. For example, T-Mobile's Sidekick and Verizon's Get It Now restrict you to applications in an online catalog. Others don't allow any add-on software.

The last freedom is the liberty to change your phone's underlying software to add new capabilities, change unwanted behaviors or fix flaws. Name-brand cell phones don't allow this flexibility. If you dislike something about the phone – the way the iPhone is locked to AT&T's network, for example – you can only hope the manufacturer fixes it in the next version.

Google and the 33 other companies that make up a new group called the Open Handset Alliance want to advance those three freedoms.
Companies that build and sell Android phones could always choose to revise it to lock out any tinkering by their customers. We could be stuck with software that's little more than a slicker replacement for our old smartphones, but with better shortcuts to Google's services.

Google thinks no one company would risk alienating customers who could turn to a competitor selling open, unlocked Android phones. But many of the corporations that have signed up as Android partners have been happy to sell locked-down phones that treat customers more like servants.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Obvious: Users & Google will benefit even if Android fails

Frank Hayes of Computerworld writes that users and Google will ultimately benefit even if Android is not such a great success. In the column titled Android Will Change the Game, Even if It Fails, he says that the very presence of Android in the market will force other players to innovate and offer a better web browsing experience on cell phones. Result: Google has more opportunities to serve up its ads and users will get a better mobile experience. Right? Right. I like and respect Frank's sensible columns. So, I shall refrain from any crude Captain Obvious jokes.

Frank fills the rest of the column space by drawing parallels with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, which announced a $100 laptop. The price climbed up to $200 by the time the laptop made it to the market. Nevertheless, since the first OLPC announcement, other players have started to offer low-end, low-cost laptops in the sub-$400 and even sub-$250 price range.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Zumobi's Tiles

Zumobi (formerly ZenZui), a spin-off from Microsoft Research, is launching the beta of its mobile application with a user interface called Tiles, on December 14th. The first beta will be for Windows Mobile.

You can check-out a Flash-based demo of the Tiles interface.

The Zumobi application looks like a version of another popular tiles-based interface - iGoogle. The special touch is the zooming function controlled by the cell phone's number keys. You start with a home screen which has 16 tiles arranged in a 4 by 4 square (picture above). Each tile is a gadget or widget (should we call them midgets for mobile phones?). You can then press different number keys to zoom into a group of 4 tiles and then zoom down to a single tile. Other functions like zooming out, scrolling and tile-specific functions are also mostly number-key based. Nice and simple. I have to say this interface is certainly much better than Yahoo! Go's scrolling carousel.

Along with Zumobi, a Zumobi SDK beta will also be made available for people to create their own midgets. And of course, in the best of Web 2.0 traditions midgets will be share-able.

Zumobi's products page says that it took them 3 years to conceive and refine this interface. Now, how long will it take for an Android developer to build a small application with a similar tile-based zooming interface for iGoogle on the mobile phone?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Worst Android Critique so far

Robert Scoble takes the cake for posting the worst critique of Android so far: Google Android: we want developers but….

You know that post is going to be pretty bad if it criticizes the Android user interface because it has...
Too many metaphors. One reason the iPhone does so well is because the UI is fairly consistent. Fun, even. How do I know this? My ex-wife hates technology and she bought one and loves it. I try to imagine her getting a Google Android phone and getting very frustrated with a mixture of drop-down menus, clicking metaphors, and touch metaphors. At some point she’ll give it back and go back to the iPhone, which only presents a touch metaphor.

Come on now, Scoble! Android is a platform with a software development kit. It is supposed to offer the widest choice of popular UI options. Repeat: those are just options. It is upto each person who implements Android on a particular mobile device to pick and choose which UI options are offered to the end-user and how they will behave. In other words, Android's UI can be implemented for the simplest of simple phones which just have numerical buttons plus a call and end-call button as well as for a totally touch UI like that of the iPhone.

See also: Best Android Critique so far.

Best Android Critique so far

Unqualified Reservations blog has the best critique of the Android platform I have come across so far: Five problems with Google Android.

Some quotes from the blog:
In the Android design overview, everything in the middle two layers (framework, runtime, library) is closed. For example, you cannot add your own presence manager, your own media types, your own browser, etc. You could probably build some of these things at the user level, but compared to the built-in versions they will suck.
But there is a substantial difference between a device in which programmers have to use the Android Java framework and one in which it is only the default option. The latter is strictly more powerful. And describing both as "open" is an unnecessary overloading of the term. (Perhaps Google, since it places such a premium on corporate honesty, could call its platform "fairly open" or "pretty open.")
With a lot of work, with good layout and compositing and so forth, it is possible to make a raster UI look pretty good. The Android UIs look pretty good. But they don't look anywhere near as slick as the iPhone. When you don't isolate device coordinates completely from the programmer, they leak everywhere. You are constantly deciding whether that line is 1 pixel or 2 pixels thick. And your designers curse you all day long.
What will Android 2.0 look like? How will an Android application recognize which version of Android it's running on? What happens when Nokia decides to use Android and add a few special classes of its own?

As the history of both Unix and Java shows, standardizing programming frameworks is not an easy task. They tend to drift and fracture, and become very hard to improve or evolve. If the Android people have thought at all about this, I see no evidence of it.
I don't think the business model works.
What incentive do they have to make Android 2.0 the greatest thing ever? Suppose Nokia adopts Android and starts bombarding Google HQ with an endless stream of feature and change requests. How responsive will they be? How long will it be before they start telling the pallid, slant-eyed Finns to just code it themselves, or go screw a reindeer? And if the Nokians choose the former, how likely is it that their patches will wind up back in the main Android codebase?

See also: Worst Android Critique so far.

Welcome to the Google Phone System Blog

The objective of this unofficial blog is to be the one-stop for all your gPhone / Android fix.

I will post information, analysis and links to interesting coverage in news and blogs of Google's Android Platform, the Open Handset Alliance, the phones and services that make use of Android, and of course, the g(od)Phone itself, if it should ever come to be. I will also cover Google's adventures and antics in the world of telephony and communications, such as the upcoming 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction in the United States.

Together, this whole shebang is called the Google Phone System.