The excitement of Android's launch has died down a bit so this seems like a good time to cast Google's entry against Nokia. Sounds like an unfair contest right? After all, one is a giant in its industry, a leader in R&D and technical innovation, with a long history of support for the developer/open source community, not to mention a globally recognized brand. I'm referring to Nokia, in case you were wondering. I'm not ignoring Apple and the iPhone, but I don't get the impression they're pressing as hard to shape a play that stretches from fundamental infrastructure up to the end user experience - which I do believe has crossed the minds of people at Google & Nokia.
Both companies have money, talent, recognition, and deep commercial relationships. Nokia probably has the lead in governmental relationships due to the highly regulated nature of the telecom industry. Google's got search so solidly nailed it's scary. With Android, Google is moving onto Nokia's turf. In the meantime, Nokia's plans appear to call for an increasing emphasis on Web services and certainly mobile content, as demonstrated by its launch of Ovi and its own music store (maybe Nokia's taking a shot at Apple, after all).
I won't dwell on the increasing sophistication of mobile devices or that they'll become a prominent means of Internet access (or even primary for some people), instead, I'll focus on the evolution we're seeing on the WWW toward the SW. Since the SW is simply an extension of the WWW, it's safe to assume that wherever the Web can be reached, the Semantic Web can be reached as well - it's all due to HTTP after all.
Here's where the respective paths of these companies begin to diverge. Google's demonstrated its schizophrenic approach to the SW pretty clearly, as I explored in this post. It seems they're quietly exploring the fringes of the SW, but they're probably expending just as much effort in denying the existence of these activities. I haven't looked through any of Android's documentation for SW references, but since I haven't found any elsewhere, it's possible that there simply aren't any.
On the other hand, Nokia's involvement in the Semantic Web goes back to at least to 1997, when Ora Lassila wrote a brief note titled "Introduction to RDF Metadata," likely when he was a visiting fellow at W3C. Ora's gone on to play an influential role within Nokia, promoting the SW all along the way. Others within the company have followed suit so that now there's a raft of internal SW projects here and here (they're not all SW projects, but a good number are). So, given the complexity of mobile environments, the differences in platforms, operating systems, regulatory environments, etc., it seems like SW technology might be well suited to service composition and delivery, provisioning issues generally, and offloading processing requirements from the handset.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Nokia acquired Navteq over the summer? Frankly, I don't think there's enough of a difference between Google Maps, Navteq, Yahoo! Maps, or others to really make a difference. But the point is that by purchasing Navteq, Nokia no longer needs to rely on Google and it no longer needs to divulge any information regarding how location based services might be developed and deployed. That's knowledge Google will have to acquire on its own. Since I've already indicated in my earlier post about Google that there's no evidence they're recruiting people with expertise in RDF, OWL, ontologies, SPARQL, graphs, triples, etc., it doesn't look to me like they're going to catch up any time soon. As a matter of fact, now that Google's cutting its workforce , I'm guessing the company's appetite for innovation may slow down, meaning that if they want to catch up in any contest with Nokia, they're going to be sucking serious wind.
Diversifying away from a reliance on search makes all the sense in the world to me. But can a mobile operating system succeed on its own without its very own fleet of handsets, infrastructure, content beyond maps, software development in what I believe will be a key technology, and deep experience in global telecom regulation? I don't know, but it's not a bet I would take.