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Google to unveil mobile platform; target: iPhone?

Negotiators continued to hammer our deals over the weekend

By Juan Carlos Perez
November 3, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. negotiators this weekend continue to hammer out agreements with wireless carriers, handset makers, software developers and hardware providers as the company prepares to announce on Monday an ambitious platform for creating mobile applications.

Although Google has declined to comment for months on its rumored move into the mobile space, sources said that the company will make an announcement Monday at 11 a.m. EST and that details of the plan are being finalized this weekend.

Google will announce an open-source development system for mobile applications that will contain a full set of components, including an operating system, a set of common application programming interfaces, a middleware layer, a customizable user interface and even a mobile browser, according to sources. Instant messaging standard protocols will also be supported.

The platform is intended to simplify the process of creating and deploying mobile applications so that an application can be built once and be compatible with multiple phones.

On the partner side, well over 30 industry heavyweights are already on board, including Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc., Broadcom Corp., Nvidia Corp., Sprint Nextel Corp., AT&T Inc.'s T-Mobile unit, China Mobile Ltd., Telefonica SA, NTT DoCoMo Inc., LG Electronics Inc. and High Tech Computer Corp., the sources said.

With negotiations expected to continue through the weekend and into Monday morning, it's possible that the list could exceed 40 partners. Among those not supporting the announcement at this time are Nokia Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and Apple Inc.

The development platform will be freely available to anyone who wants to use it and, aside from a common core, will reportedly provide a lot of flexibility for modifications and extensions.

The ultimate goal is to reduce costs, simplify the creation of mobile applications and spur innovation that, as Google sees it, has been hampered by technical fragmentation. As such, the Google offering will rival existing mobile platforms from Microsoft Corp. and Symbian Ltd.

For Google, the benefit will come indirectly from an acceleration in improvements to mobile phone interfaces, which the company claims will make it easier for people to access online services such as search engines and applications from their mobile phones. The intent is to bridge the gap between the Internet and mobile phones.

As usage of Google online services increases on mobile devices, so will the advertising revenue the company generates.

Mobile advertising is a tiny market but is expected to grow quickly in coming years. According to Opus Research Inc., mobile advertising spending in North America and Western Europe will reach a combined $5.08 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $106.8 million at the end of this year. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 116%.

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