Google's Wide-Open GPhone: Recipe For Disaster?

Google’s much-anticipated mobile push is launching soon: WSJ says within two weeks, Google will shed light on the phone-software project it has reportedly invested hundreds of millions of dollars on, with Google-powered phones set to hit the market by the middle of next year. The most interesting part of today’s WSJ article:

The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google’s push to make the phones’ software “open” right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features. Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users’ Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web.

This sounds exciting and makes sense. By making its phones a wide-open playground for developers, Google can attract a lot of buzz, the same way its Web tools have fuelled zillions of browser-based mashups.

But buyer beware…

Apple roped off its iPhone from outside developers for months for a reason: Hand-made mobile apps can cause major performance and security problems. It’s one thing for Web developers to push and pull data from Google’s Web services — the worst that could happen is a Web site that doesn’t work. But if mobile software is cooked up poorly, the whole phone could take a dive. Even simple email software has a way of making my Palm Treo behave like an expensive paperweight. And malicious coders could conceivably use a totally open GPhone to do all kinds of evil, starting with harvesting all of your phone numbers and selling them to spammers.

What’s a good solution? Nokia requires a “digital signature” on apps loaded onto its phones so they can track down creators of bad-behaving software. Apple will implement something similar when it opens its iPhones up to developers next year. Microsoft screens new Windows Mobile apps for fishy functions, the Journal says. Let’s hope Google has a similar solution so GPhones don’t quickly become GBricks — or worse.

See Also:
Apple: Third-Party iPhone Apps Coming Next February
Five iPhone Apps We Can’t Wait To Install
Four Big Questions About Google’s GPhone
Google’s Gargantuan GPhone Gamble: Where’s The Money Going?

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