Google Intros a Smartphone of Its Own

The T-Mobile G1 combines full touch-screen functionality and a QWERTY keyboard with a mobile Web experience that includes the popular Google products that millions have enjoyed on the desktop.

If you so much as glanced at the Internet on Tuesday, you likely saw something about a new smartphone from Google. (Yes, Google.) The new phone runs a brand new mobile operating system called Android. It will be mainstream player...eventually.

Google and partners T-Mobile and HTC gathered up the New York City tech press for the big unveiling on Tuesday morning. It was geek central. The news was about the HTC G1, the first phone running the Android platform. HTC is a Taiwan-based maker of smartphones. Most of its devices run Windows Mobile, and are named the "Touch", the "Touch Diamond" and so on. T-Mobile, of course, is the fourth-largest mobile network operator in the U.S., and will be the network supporting the G1. Google supplied the operating system.

The T-Mobile G1 combines full touch-screen functionality and a QWERTY keyboard with a mobile Web experience that includes the popular Google products that millions have enjoyed on the desktop, including Google Maps Street View, Gmail, YouTube and others.

Working together, T-Mobile, Google and HTC integrated Android and T-Mobile services into the phone's form and function. The T-Mobile G1's vibrant, high-quality screen slides open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, great for communicating with friends online or using the phone's e-mail, IM and mobile messaging capabilities. As another option for accessing the device, the T-Mobile G1 comes equipped with a convenient trackball for more precise, one-handed navigation.

With one-click contextual search, T-Mobile G1 customers in a flash can search for relevant information with a touch of a finger. A full HTML Web browser allows users to see any Web page the way it was designed to be seen, and then easily zoom in to expand any section by simply tapping on the screen. With built-in support for T-Mobile's 3G and EDGE network as well as Wi-Fi, the T-Mobile G1 can connect to the best available high-speed data connection for surfing the Web and downloading information quickly and effortlessly.

You may be thinking, "What's the big deal, it's just another phone?" The truth is, it is a big, BIG deal. Mobile operating systems don't spring up over night. They take a lot of development time. Google chose to base Android on Linux, and has made the platform completely open for anyone to develop. Google has been working on Android for at least a year, and probably longer.

The big players in the market right now are RIM and its BlackBerry operating system, Apple and its iPhone operating system, Microsoft and its Windows Mobile operating system, Nokia and its S60 operating system, and Palm with its Garnet operating system. These are the entrenched smartphone providers. Together, they have a customer base that is close to 1 billion. Google wants to grab a piece of that pie.

The G1 may not be the best device ever crafted. It definitely lacks polish and there are some glaring omissions on the spec sheet. But the G1 is a good showcase for the first iteration of Android. It shows that the platform has massive potential that will surely evolve over time. It will also offer what Google terms the "Android Market", a place where developers can offer applications for anyone to download.

The impact of the G1 and Android may not be large at first, but like "the shot heard 'round the world," it will reverberate and create a lot of noise in the future.