Google pitches Android to European mobile developers

Dave Burke, an engineering manager within Google’s mobile team, stood up today at the Future of Mobile conference in London to talk about Android and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), the new open mobile platform initiative from Google. This is the the first conference presentation in Europe on the subject since Google’s announcement on November 5th, and was live blogged by TechCrunch UK.

But if you were expecting much new information on all this you would probably have been disappointed. Burke introduce the OHA, outlined how it has 30+ industry leaders on board and how there is no gPhone, just a phone built by partners using the Android platform – this we already know. There was a run-down of what the platform will be capable of and a reminder that the SDK is a only a few days old and that we will probably not see handsets until the second half of next year when the full open source platform will be released.

He also did a fairly impressive demonstration of coding an application (in this case a mobile browser) inside 8mins (or 7mins 58 seconds to be exact – he timed it on stage).

Burke did say: “We’re really serious. We want to see serious innovation. We want operators and application developers to spend less time on little silos and more time building great stuff.” At the end he added an advert: “we’re hiring in Europe”.

During Q&A he said he hadn’t “heard” if Android will support Flash Lite, but he did say the Webkit would support Netscape style plugins.

How come Google is only releasing the full source code when the handsets hit the market next year? He said Google wanted to wait until it really worked on handsets before releasing the code.

What about the difference with the OpenMoko project, an open source mobile platform? “The difference with Moko is this [Android] is real,” he said “We have a lot of momentum with key partners. We are not talking about specifications, we’re just building it and trying to get support.”

One questioner asked if Google would be subject to anti-trust allegations given that a lot of Google applications will come default with the handsets, but Burke gave the impression that this would be unlikely as handset makers could “swap out applications.” We’ll see I guess.

So what’s the upshot of all this? In terms of content perhaps not a great deal. If one were to be cynical, one would say that this was mainly about a Google guy appearing in London (which has a big mobile community) at a conference aimed at mobile developers, and was in hiring mode…

[Update: Here’s some video I shot of the Android interface being demo’d]