Google Phone Android Won't be an Immediate Game Changer

By Reuters -  |  Posted 2008-09-15 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Google sees Android as an open-source platform for designing mobile devices, saying it will encourage innovation by allowing outside software developers to tinker with the system and create better mobile programs and services. Industry insiders who have worked on Google's Android mobile operating system say it will struggle in the near term and will take time to match the consumer enthusiasm generated by Apple when its iPhone redefined the touch-screen phone market and greatly improved mobile Web surfing.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anyone expecting the soon- to-be-launched Google phone to change the market like Apple's iPhone has over the past year will likely be disappointed -- for now.

Industry insiders who have worked on Google Inc's Android mobile operating system say it will struggle in the near term to match the consumer enthusiasm generated by Apple Inc when its iPhone redefined the touch-screen phone market and greatly improved mobile Web surfing.

Instead, Google sees Android as an open-source platform for designing mobile devices, saying it will encourage innovation by allowing outside software developers to tinker with the system and create better mobile programs and services.

But these things take time and the first phone using Android, code-named the Google "Dream" phone, is unlikely to wow consumers. The device is made by Taiwan's HTC Corp. Sources familiar with the plan say Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile plans to introduce it in New York on September 23.

"I'm not sure the consumer experience is significantly better than that of the iPhone," says Rajeev Chand, a wireless analyst at investment bank Rutberg & Co, who has tried out an early version of Android. "When the iPhone came out the experience was several orders of magnitude better than anything that was out there."

Google, its partner carriers and application developers hope the Android platform will drive even more mobile Web surfing than the iPhone, which has helped Web usage rocket in comparison to other smartphones.

But unlike Apple, which keeps a tight grip on the iPhone's hardware and software, Google will have less control as Android will be open to developers to create component technologies in almost any way they can imagine.

Google's engineering-led culture appears content to launch the first Android phones as a kind of science project that will be rapidly improved afterward. Google has produced big hits and plenty of hard-to-remember misses with its strategy of launching new ideas and iterating quickly.

Yet, Google will not have the kind of leverage in mobile that it is used to in the PC world, where it dominates search. Phone carriers have a huge say over how devices are designed and what data services are accessible over their networks.

While Android could offer real promise in terms of technology and usability -- particularly because it is an open platform -- it is unlikely to single-handedly change the restrictive nature of the mobile industry, said John Poisson, founder of Tiny Pictures, a developer partner of Android.

"Carriers in each market will still control how it gets implemented and on which devices and in which form," Poisson said. "Android lives and breathes at the pleasure of the operator."



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