Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open Handset Alliance - No Indian representation

I was reading about the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). A consortium of about 47 players in the telecom hardware and software domain who have come together to standardize and put forward a viable alternative to existing platforms for handsets and related application development. With founding members in Google, HTC, Intel, Motorola, Qualcomm, Samsung, LG, T-Mobile, Nvidia and Wind River Systems, the Open Handset Alliance which was formed in Nov 2007 has grown in strength to 47. The consortium today includes mobile operators, software companies, commercialization companies, semiconductor companies and handset manufacturers.


On 5 November, 2007, the OHA unveiled Android, an open source mobile phone platform based on the Linux operating system. The first commercially available phone running Android is the T-Mobile G1 (also known as the HTC Dream)that hit the markets on August 18, 2008.

Nokia, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are not members of the alliance, though Verizon has expressed a change of stance.

Android, the flagship software of the alliance, is based on an open source license and will compete against other mobile platforms from Apple Inc., Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, Research In Motion and Symbian.

While US, European and even Chinese companies have become part of this alliance that will have a say in the future evolution of mobiles, the world's largest and fastest growing handset market India has absolutely no representation. No Indian vendor be it the state owned BSNL or the private biggies like Reliance, Tata Indicom or Airtel have a representation in the OHA.

This means that none of them will have a say in the way mobile phones evolve despite India being the market that will be the most challenging for handset makers given its cultural, linguistic and geographical diversities.

It also means that Indian users will have to pay through their nose for phones that were never developed in the first place keeping in mind the Indian user's nuances in mind. Remember Apple's iPhone introduction into India that fell flat on its face? Part pricing in-sensitivity and part feature insensitivity (non availability of 3G and iTunes store that could accepts payments in INR) caused the fiasco. You can be guranteed of more such incidents with no Indian representation in the OHA.

Lastly the stance of the Indian government is surprising. The Indian government is one of the strongest upholders of Linux and other open source software. It has played a strong role in pushing for the adoption of the open standards based document standard - ODF (Open Document Format). Why not the same stand when it comes to handset adoption? After all handsets have played and will continue to play an important role in getting the wheels of our nation rolling at 9%-10% GDP growth per annum.

Is someone listening?

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