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.)
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.