Anticipation builds for Google's Android phone

September 10, 2008 7:16:36 PM PDT
A new kind of mobile phone was all the buzz at an industry trade show in San Francisco on Wednesday. It is a phone that operates on software called Android, and it is the brainchild of Google.

There were mobile phones everywhere at a wireless conference at the Moscone Center on Wednesday, except for one ? Android.

"No, I haven't seen one as of yet, but I'm very interested to see one," said Maurice Thompson III, open development director for Verizon Wireless.

The first Android phone is due out sometime this fall. Android is a new operating system backed by Google. Some of the biggest mobile operators and handset makers have jumped on board. It promises to speed up development of new mobile applications for consumers.

"There are new social networking applications that are going to come aboard. There's new ways in which to communicate with friends and locate friends that are going to come aboard, and it's exciting," said Thompson.

However, Android means one more hurdle for an industry already fragmented by multiple standards.

"It's extremely fragmented. You literally have thousands of different types of devices, you've got hundreds of different browsers, you've got different operating systems, you've got different carrier networks with their own idiosyncrasies, and then if you layer the geographic differences from country to country on top of that, you really have this matrix upon a matrix," said Adam Taggart with Yahoo! Mobile.

It means new competition for companies like Microsoft. Eighteen thousand applications already use its Windows Mobile operating system.

So do we need Android?

"That remains to be seen. I think it's going to be what the customers choose, and right now, they're choosing Windows Mobile," said Scott Rockfeld with Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Nobody, including Google, wants to be left behind as more and more people gravitate from computers to mobile phones to access the Internet.

The potential market is huge. Worldwide, one billion people use computers, while three billion use mobile phones.

John Szeder is an independent game producer. He says Android cannot be ignored because Google is behind it.

"Eventually the consumers are the people who are really going to win here, and until they've basically voted with their dollars, you've got to kind of grin and bear it," said Szeder.

The wireless industry clearly is not operating all on the same page. As consumers face more choices and more applications in the future, will there also be more confusion?


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