While Apple's iPhone continues to attract customers and application developers – at last count more than 80,000 thousand apps have been approved for the iTunes App Store – competition is heating up to deliver a more open experience for alternative mobile phones. This week significant announcements from both Google and Palm show that it is too early to count either of them out of the picture.
Google has consolidated its position with the cellular carriers, and will have phones by the end of the year that can operate on three out of the four American networks – everyone except AT&T. This week Google announced that Verizon will be the third network. Lowell McAdam, the chief executive of Verizon Wireless, praised the “unmatched openness and flexibility of the Android platform.” He continued: “Either you have an open device or not. This will be open.” The company plans on combining Android devices that offer unique features to Verizon's network, such as location services and integrated voice mail, both of which have long been available on Apple's iPhone over AT&T's network.
Palm is going after Apple from another but equally open direction. The company has lured away two of the open source world's premier developers, Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith. Both have worked together on numerous open source projects, most recently Mozilla's Bespin. This week the company announced a novel developer's program that will essentially allow anyone to publish their application to a unique URL that can be used by anyone to download it across the Internet. If a developer uses open source tools to build and publish their app, Palm will waive the $99 registration fee. This puts Palm at the opposite end of the app store universe from Apple, who has a quirky and sometimes difficult approval process before an app can be listed and sold through iTunes.