Google Android Effect on Cellphone Carriers - Open-Source Mobile Software - Popular Mechanics
So Android is by no means a slam-dunk as a category-dominating OS standard, but it throws down the gauntlet to start a few much-needed brawls in the cellular industry. Google estimates that the operating system amounts to 10 percent of the total cost of a phone, so a free OS combined with falling hardware prices could eventually result in multifunction handsets that are cheap enough to do an end run around carrier subsidies. This could potentially mean a fertile unlocked handset market. But what’s got to be really scaring the carriers right now is the prospect of thousands of freely available applications that could subvert almost every communications product they sell. Why subscribe to Sprint’s GPS mapping service when you can simply download a free one that taps into Google Maps? Why pay for text messages to your friends when you can download an instant messaging client? In fact, why pay for cellular minutes at all when you can download Skype and just use your data plan? This sort of functionality has been creeping onto cellphones for years as they have become more and more like tiny computers. But OS’s such as Android threaten carriers with a loss of control over the applications on the phones on their network. And they may find themselves becoming nothing more than wireless Internet service providers, forced to compete on price and bandwidth (another brewing battle, by the way, with Sprint’s WiMAX rollout next year). Regardless of what happens, it is going to be good for consumers. If things shake out in the best possible way, we could end up with cheap, highly-functional, customizable, Internet-enabled handsets that work across multiple carriers with no long-term contract requirements.
Someday soon, I pray. Cellphone carriers are as user-friendly as the recording industry.
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