Google Sidesteps Rumors of Android Delay

Google is downplaying claims of new delays in the release of its Android mobile phone platform. The launch of the protocol is being pushed back until late 2008 or early 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That kind of delay could create issues for carriers like Sprint — which, according to the Journal, may not be able to release its Android-powered phone at all this year. Other carriers may miss their target dates for 2008 releases as well, it reported.

Varying Views

Despite the talk of turmoil, Google maintains that everything is on track and there is no need for concern.

“We remain on schedule to deliver the first Android-based handset in the second half of 2008,” Google spokesperson Lauren Birnbaum told LinuxInsider. “We’re very excited to see the momentum continuing to build behind the Android platform among carriers, handset manufacturers, developers and consumers.”

The Wall Street Journal, however, presents a different perspective. Focus on the fourth-quarter launch of T-Mobile’s Android phone is taking up a wealth of Google resources and may result in other companies’ late launches, according to its report.

Extension Expectation

The idea of an extension may be catching carriers off-guard, but it does not come as a surprise to everyone in the mobile phone industry.

“This is [Google’s] first big platform rollout,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider. “Very few people hit their dates the first time out of the gates.”

Google is known for taking its time on software development, evidenced by projects like Gmail, which — while quickly growing ubiquitous in the Web-based e-mail world — is still listed as being in beta development. That kind of thinking, Enderle said, may not be a bad thing.

“It’s always better to do it right the first time than to do it quickly. People remember their first impression, and their first impression has to be a good one,” he noted.

Competitive Considerations

With the pending summer release of the new amped-up iPhone, any delay of Android could present problems for carriers relying on cutting-edge competition. Still, the two much-hyped systems may not be as big of direct rivals as one might think.

“The iPhone’s primary competition will be against other phones with similar form factors” rather than with the keyboard-enhanced Android devices currently in development, Enderle predicted.

“It certainly doesn’t hurt Apple that Google may be late, but the Google impact on Apple was probably going to lag behind the impact from other phone manufacturers that are already rolling out second- and third-generation phones,” he added.

Carrier Questions

Android also has hurdles to face in the form of carriers hesitant to give up data service control. Sprint, for example, is said to be pushing for its own individually branded services for the platform instead of the Google-based services currently being created. The company may be looking at pulling out of the Android protocol altogether to develop its own alternative, the Journal report suggests.

Other carriers are reporting problems with the platform, such as China Mobile — which is said to be having issues incorporating its proprietary data services into Android. It’s an issue that’s come up plenty of times since Android’s introduction.

“The operators might not want to let users utilize Google’s platform,” Tomi Rauste, president of Movial Creative Technologies, told LinuxInsider. “They might want to have their own platforms — their own services distributed.”

Open Opportunities

Companies like Movial — which recently released its own Linux-driven open source mobile platform — are hoping the hesitation can create an opening for them in the cut-throat market.

“I think it might open up possibilities for the competition, other ways to do the same stuff that Android is seeking to do,” Rauste said. “It might open up new opportunities.”

Still to be seen, though, is if the mobile market is open to the idea of open source — whether it’s from a tech giant like Google or a lower profile company like Movial. The demand, some speculate, could be there — and Google is certainly known for breaking down barriers and delivering.

“The limitation the iPhone has is the limitation that Apple’s always had: There’s only one manufacturer and a limited setup of configurations,” Enderle told LinuxInsider. “The Google platform, like the Microsoft platform, can go multiple ways.”

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