Popular Steve Jobs satirist FakeSteve posted a nice piece on the percieved threat of the Google Open Handset Alliance on Apple and its iPhone franchise.  Google’s stock is up and all of the alliance members are getting plenty of publicity.  But in the end what have we really got?

  • No devices for a year (!!) which is forever in technology terms.  The 6 months wait for the iPhone was eternity.
  • An SDK – which is based on Linux.  Let’s reserve judgment until next week.  No news yet.
  • Device manufacturers like HTC will build the equipment.  However, in hardware terms, since it is an open platform, they are already going to be building the same hardware anyway.  Its like Dell saying we are going to build Linux compliant computers now.  They already do and have for years.  They just usually install Windows on them.  It is a low risk for HTC because, if the OHA fails, they just sell the devices with WM6.  In fact, it would not surprise us to see the same devices running WM6 and OHA – just like Palm sells similar devices running PAlmOS and WM6.  Also – Rubin mentioned the low end processor for the OHA phone would be a 200Mhz ARM processor.  Something that has been out for a few years already.  IT was introduced in an iPaq about 4 years ago.
  • Carriers like Tmobile and China Telecom and Sprint which say they are into interoperability and openness but when questioned had to rescind their open stance and say "yeah we are still going to lock these things down and milk our customers for features."  Its obvious that the carriers are not going to play ball with the customers unless they are forced to by law or competition.
  • Qualcom: yeah we’ll build chips for this thing and any other handset that is out there.  Drivers?  sure.  No problem.  No real news here.  Sounds like they have some exciting chips lined up but they’ll continue to try to sell them to Apple and WM6 devices as well.
  • Fake Steve makes note that alliances never work.  Indeed Symbian is an alliance and it is the very OS that OHA is competing with.  This is, however, Google and the OHA is fully open source which should give it some credibility in the developer community and some legs in the cash category.
  • This alliance seems to be in RESPONSE to the iPhone – which of course is a huge compliment.  Obviously all of these companies are rightfully worried about the iPhone taking a large chunk of their future marketshare.  FakeSteve makes a great point that companies don’t form alliances when they are on the offensive – probably the reason why they rarely succeed.  Another great parallel.  Google’s OpenSocial – taking all of the losing Social networks and pitting them against Facebook – which seems to be winning bigtime in that space.
  • Another great point – if the best way to acomplish something is by committee, why isnt Google forming an open search consortium to further its search and advertising goals?

Money quote Money quote:

The Journal kind of nails the problem with this story. Money quote: Tech consortia for decades have been notorious for failing to live up to their promise. Google Director of Mobile Platforms Andy Rubin acknowledged the troubled history of previous consortia, but said that Android was different because "we’re actually releasing in one week this software."

But the issue isn’t about when the software ships. Consortia don’t work because nobody can ever agree on anything and everyone always wants to push the group in ways that advantage themselves and disadvantage everyone else. Reason #2 — the only companies that join consortia are the ones who are too stupid or shitty to make a great product on their own. It’s like, Hey, we’ve got forty spazzo companies that can’t fuck their way out of a paper bag; let’s put them all together and maybe they’ll magically become some kind of big bad powerhouse. More likely it’ll just be some scary ass Frankenstein monster, walking around drooling and tripping over its own tongue.

Think of what a customer wants. When you’re redoing your kitchen, and you’re choosing appliances, do you go out looking for some consortium devoted to food temperature management and environmental control technology? No. You go looking for a refrigerator. And you look for the coolest, best-looking, best-designed refrigerator, made by a company that put loads of effort and genius into making something mindblowing. That’s why iPhone has taken off. Because it’s beautiful. It’s amazing. It works. It restores a sense of childlike wonder to people’s lives. It wasn’t made by a consortium. It couldn’t be created by a committee. It is the product of one vision, one man, one genius — that would be me — with, to be sure, a bit of help from a few other people who played minor roles.

Finally, has anyone else noticed the way Google is kind of desperately grasping at straws lately? They spend years trying to do something other than search and nothing works. Then, despite their big brains and IQ tests, they get totally blindsided by Facebook and have to gin up this ridiculous OpenSocial thing. Just like with this phone thing, they round up all the losers in that social networking space to form some dumbass alliance. You know how it looks? It looks weak. Companies don’t form alliances and consortia when they’re winning. Also, whenever you see companies start talking about being "open," it means they’re getting their ass kicked. You think Google will be forming an OpenSearch alliance any time soon, to help also-rans in search get a share of the spoils? Me neither.

Apple fans, the industry is afraid of the iPhone and competition for this space is going to be great – which should make the products in the next few years that much greater.  These are very exciting times to be gadget freaks.

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