Google has cellphone alliance: What does that mean?

What exactly is this new Google googcellphone alliance announced Monday? USA TODAY's Jefferson Grahamtries to sort it out.

Q: What's Google's role in the Open Handset Alliance?

A: The company is helping develop an operating system, called Android, that will run the phones.

Q: When will I see phones based on Android? What will they be called? How much will they cost?

A: Handsets are expected by mid-2008. Neither Google nor its partners are saying what they will be called. Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, the San Diego company that produces chips for mobile phones, predicted phones would sell for less than $200.

Q: Why aren't Nokia, Microsoft, Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion — which also market cellphones and operating systems — included in the alliance?

A: Google says the alliance is open to anyone and everyone.

Q: What about ads on phones?

A: Andy Rubin, who oversees Google's mobile efforts, says there won't be a free phone completely sponsored by Google ads. "I don't want a phone spewing ads all over the place. That reminds me of The Blade Runner. You won't walk by a Starbucks and feel your phone vibrate, urging you to stop in."

Q: So what is the significance of the announcement? I'm lost.

A: Software developers will have access to Google's new wireless operating system software next week, which they can use to help bring PC-quality Internet to wireless phones.

"As a result of the platform, you'll be able to do amazing things on your phones that you've never been able to do before," says Google CEO Eric Schmidt.