Making the Google Phone, OpenSocial connection

The Google killer app everyone missed: Social mobility

Everyone is talking about two big Google projects: The long-awaited Google Phone, and the new OpenSocial initiative. Each is cool, but combined, well, they're going to change everything.

The Google Phone

The gadget blogs are buzzing this week over photos showing a Google Phone like the one posted on the Mobile Magazine blog.

Whether these pictures have anything to do with Google's big phone project remains to be seen. The company will likely reveal all in two or three weeks. The announcement may include specific deals with carriers and handset makers, and it will definitely involve a new platform: probably Java on Linux.

Whatever the Google Phone project entails, you can be sure it will improve the experience of using Google applications from a cell phone -- applications like Gmail, Maps, Search, Docs and YouTube, for example.

OpenSocial

This week, Google rolled out its OpenSocial initiative and announced an impressive list of companies supporting it. MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, Six Apart, Bebo, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ning, Hi5, Viadeo, Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide have pledged support, as have Oracle and Salesforce.com.

OpenSocial is based on three APIs that enable outside JavaScript access to the following information inside a compatible social network or other kind of Web site: Profiles, Friends and Activities. Developers can create widgets that work across social networks.

If you watch carefully, you can see eyes glazing over at the news of APIs and partnerships. But OpenSocial will be very exciting to users once the widgets hit the fan.

In a nutshell, OpenSocial is likely to mainstream social networking and transform it from mostly gossipy online graffiti for teenagers into a super powerful and automated way for everyone to communicate with the people they care about.

OpenSocial widgets will be able to generate "activity streams," for example -- constantly updating lists of events generated collectively by family, friends and colleagues.

These can be combined, presorted and configured. As a result, you'll be able to use just about any social networking site to remain "in the loop" to an unprecedented degree based on the activities of others on dozens or hundreds of other sites.

Social networking in general and OpenSocial in particular remind me a lot of the blogging phenomenon over the past eight years. It started out as frivolous and confusing to the lay public, but evolved quickly into something important that changed everything.

Put them together, and ...

News about OpenSocial and speculation about the Google Phone project are interesting enough on their own. But more interesting still is how these two major initiatives are connected.

In an article about the Google Phone project, The Wall Street Journal quoted Google CEO Eric Schmidt this week as saying that "the new model of these phones is going to be person-to-person," with people exchanging videos and other types of data.

Schmidt is talking about mobile social networking.

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Mike Elgan

Computerworld
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