What's Android, and now ... Gmail on Android

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Android came last year and now the first Android powered phone is coming out. Somewhere back in November 2007, Google released the Android, an open platform (Operating System) for mobile phones that developers can use to create applications for mobile phones. So why is it so special? Well, today's mobile phones have a lot of legacy architecture, and they were built before Web 2.0. That means they didn't envision integration and mashups. Here are some of the things that make Andriod cool:

1. Deeply integrated
Applications can be deeply integrated. That means you can call up the Maps application from your contacts to see "where" your contact is. You dont have to first get out of your phone book and then bring up the Maps application and look up the address there. Thats neat !

2. Applications can receive notifications
Here's a really cool feature. You applications can receive notifications (incoming messages) directly. So its not just native SMS that alerts you anymore. Maybe you'd like to know when your books was dispatched from Amazon, or when your stock went up, or when your friend reached a cafe. It just opens up a great deal of possibilities developers can bring out on the phone.

3. Advanced features
Yes it does support advanced features like 3G, OpenGL, touchscreen. Steve Horowitz (Engineering Director at Google) demoed a prototype of the phone. It has Quake! Need i say more ... Plus the maps application was really fast running off the 3G network.

4. Map view
Here's another neat treat for developers. Google has made available the map view for other applications to use. So not only is the Google Maps application deeply integrated, you own application can have a map view and build features on top of that.

I think this is a well thought out product. Google even offered $10 million for the coolest apps. On Wednesday, the much awaited G1 phone from T mobile is releasing in the US. So lets talk about Gmail on G1.

What's the big deal about Gmail on G1:
Its an application written by Google engineers. Looking at their video, its looks pretty nice. You can do all the basic things you do on Gmail on the web, on the phone. Really its like they've tried to bring all the functionality that Gmail provides on the web to the phone. I would have expected them to be smarter than that. Mobile is not a PC - so we dont want to do the same thing on the mobile like we do on the web. Personally i dont really find the star feature and archiving very useful. Why have they brought all that into the G1?

Some cool things:
Gmail notifications: you get notified when new mail arrives right on the home screen and you just need to tap it to open up the application and read your mail.
Contacts are integrated: Gmail contacts are integrated with your phone. So it auto suggests, the same way it does on the web. And additionally ... if you add a contact on Gmail on phone, it gets synced with the web. Nice !
Attaching images: you can attach images, but they seem to be silent on attaching any other file. I wonder if G1 can handle Microsoft files. Hmmm...

But what i dont understand is ... there isn't any real mobile specific feature. Why is Gmail trying to copy its web version on the mobile. A simple suggestion - dont just auto suggest names, let us "say" out the name and bring up matching contacts to choose from. Motorola did a great job at Voice recognition in their V3 series way back. The Andriod seems to have forgotten that its a "phone" but looks at it more like a mini computer. I guess it will evolve.

But for a start, im thrilled to see Google coming on to mobile. One last question - When is it coming to India? :)

Here's the video of Android (released last November)

Official Gmail Blog: A sneak peek at Gmail on Android