Now it's got a consortium of cell phone companies. Could the search giant create a one console future?
The announcement that Google had partnered with several cell phone companies and cell carriers to create a new Linux-based operating system (OS) that would most likely compete against Apple's iPhone came as a shock as many predicted that the fabled "Gphone" from Google was simply more likely. Owning an initiative is a signature part of Google's historical "Don't Be Evil" mantra.
Google's push is an interesting one. Since most companies in the competitive cell phone industry normally refuse to get along and since efforts to create a unified cell phone OS under Symbian never really dominated the cell phone market, it took Google to level the playing field.
While few details regarding the Google Android cell phone platform were released through the newly formed Open Handset Alliance, the platform promises to allow companies to create applications for less money that help users get to their information better to create a communications hub. And communications hubs are all the rage right now from video on your fridge to your phone and even to your gaming console.
Yet each interpretation of a communications hub offers a (surprise) proprietary experience in order to allow you to communicate. While the Xbox 360's Live Marketplace selection of games, movies and TV shows give gamers a nice communications hub, in order to use that content anywhere else you have to buy more proprietary "communications hub" hardware in order to do so. Nintendo's popular Wii offers up classic games and an amazingly fun new way to play but while Nintendo offers hub-like features like the helpful weather channel and a photo viewer, it's still proprietary. And while the PlayStation 3 lags in sales, it offers a glimpse at a possible answer—it allows hackers to install Linux, which adds a lot of the functionality of your PC or Mac but without the box.
Since all three consoles are drastically different, Linux only runs on PlayStation 3, right? Not exactly. See, the Wii, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 all run on the same PowerPC processor technology from IBM. Macs used the same technology before Apple embraced Intel's CoreDuo chips. So while Microsoft and Nintendo try hard to ensure that no other OS runs on their proprietary consoles, it is possible.
If Google were to get Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony to join a console alliance that allowed players to run a single OS on all their upcoming consoles, imagine the implications. While all three do offer different graphics chips (this is where the PS3 wins for sure), theoretically game developers could design a single video game console that would either scale to each platform (lower graphics for Wii for instance) and allow those console makers to invest more time in creating better games. Currently, all three console makers lose money on their consoles but make money on their software. Imagine creating a TiVo or email or social networking program that worked on your game console or your phone or even your PC?
Sure, Google would still make money on ads but gamers would be free to choose the applications that best served their needs. Imagine using Facebook or LinkedIn or MySpace as a replacement for the PlayStation Network's lack of an online gaming service. Or instead of having to buy a console for a single game, you'd get Halo 3 or Warhawk or Gears of War on all three consoles at the same time. See, that's capitalism in action. In the end, gamers get to play the content they want and game creators get more funds to create tomorrow's hits.
And with that, electronics makers would finally achieve a true communications hub.