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Consumer Electronics Authors: Dana Gardner, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Esmeralda Swartz

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Android And The Internet Of Things

As the world waits for the first Android phone to appear in the wild (from T-Mobile), questions are being raised again about whether Google’s Android ambitions will stop at cell phones. In a speculative, but well-thought-out piece, VentureBeat’s Eric Eldon reports:

Industry sources tell us that although Android will indeed start as a mobile OS, Google intends to expand it to be a sort of universal operating system that will span set-top boxes for televisions, mp3 players and other communication and media devices and services.

If what Eldon is hearing is true, that means that Android could one day spread beyond mobile phones and set-top boxes to a multiplicity of devices. After all, if we are moving towards an Internet of things, those things will need an operating system. In this case, however, the operating system will reside partially in the cloud, and applications written on Google’s App Engine, for instance, will work across devices and the Web.

That is easier said than done, and Android will have a hard enough time simply establishing itself on mobile phones. But the more devices Android apps can work across, the more appealing it will be to developers and startups.

And for at least one other device, it does make sense. In fact, I’ve been hearing similar rumors in regards to a Google set-top-box project that I first heard about last year. As far as I know, that project is still alive and was very Android-like in its aspirations. As I wrote in my post in November, 2007:

If creating applications for set-top boxes was more like creating applications for the Web, we’d be able to do a lot more things with our TVs—especially if those set-top boxes were also connected to the Web. Want instant messaging and caller ID on your TV? No problem. Want customized information widgets for the TV that scroll breaking news, weather, sports scores or stock quotes from sources you choose in your own ticker at the bottom of the screen? No problem. Want to turn that annoying ticker off? No problem. Want to control the camera angles on that basketball game? No problem. Want to add the live video stream from your friend’s cell phone who is at the game? No problem. Want to create your own video mashup of fight scenes from various movies that you can edit right on your TV and share with others on their TVs? No problem.

Oh, and what about new forms of advertising? Inserting ads into pay-per-view or triggering them when someone presses fast-forward on their DVR require applications of a different sort. You might not like that, but the TV industry would. Any new video ad unit that starts to gain traction on the Web could be ported over to regular TVs—clickable overlays, contextual video ads, unobtrusive sponsorship icons. Why not even let viewers program their own ads with a laundry list of categories and companies to choose from? They might actually watch them.

What other devices could Android conquer?

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