New York: Google Inc.’s announcement last year that it would give away software that could run cell phones was met by dizzy accolades from analysts who thought it would let the search engine company conquer the world of mobile advertising.
On Tuesday, a fruit of that announcement is set to drop: T-Mobile USA will reveal the first phone to use Android, Google’s software platform, at a New York news conference.
But a lot has happened in the world of cell phone software in the intervening year, and Google looks set for an uphill battle in trying to capture the desires of consumers and wireless carriers.
Research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that T-Mobile could sell 400,000 phones this year, giving Google about 4% of the US market for “smart” phones, a category dominated by Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry phones with tough competition from Apple Inc.’s iPhone, Palm Inc.’s Treos and Centros and various phones running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile software.
The new phone, called the G1 according to T-Mobile’s invitation, is widely expected to be a design from HTC Corp. of Taiwan, which has made a name for itself by making smart phones that use Windows Mobile software. Based on previous Google demos of its software, it’s assumed that it will have a touch screen and a slide-out, full-alphabet keyboard.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unnamed sources, that the phone would sell for $199 and carry the Google brand. It’s likely that the phone will go on sale in a few weeks. Other details are scant, and it’s not clear exactly what the phone will be capable of, but Web browsing and e-mail are safe bets.
The LiMo Foundation is behind one of the developments that has undermined the prospects for Android in the last year. In May, Verizon Wireless said LiMo, or Linux Mobile, would be the “preferred” software for its phones, starting next year, joining some European carriers.
Like Android, LiMo is based on Linux computer software, and is given away free to phone makers. But the LiMo Foundation is designed as consortium of industry participants to assuage their fears that a single company would dominate phone software, like Microsoft does on PCs.
In contrast, while Google has tried to broaden its base by creating an Open Handset Alliance, Android is still very much identified as its project, and a “Google” brand on the phone will strengthen that image.