Google is finding that launching an entirely new cell phone platform is taking longer than expected. When it first announced its Android mobile operating system, Google said the first Android phones would be available during the second half of this year. Now the mobile carriers that signed up as Android partners are pushing out their launches, with only T-Mobile still trying to get an Android phone out by the fourth quarter of this year. All the other carriers are pushing out their deployments until 2009. Reports the WSJ:
T-Mobile USA expects to deliver an Android-powered phone in the fourth period. But that launch is taking up so much of Google’s attention and resources that Sprint Nextel Corp., which had hoped to launch an Android phone this year, won’t be able to, a person familiar with the matter said.
China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world with nearly 400 million subscriber accounts, had planned to launch an Android phone in the third quarter but it has run into issues that will likely delay the launch until late this year or early 2009, a person familiar with the matter says.
. . . AT&T Inc., the U.S. carrier for the iPhone, is still working with Google to determine if it is feasible to launch an Android phone.
Sprint wants to add its own bells and whistles to its Android service, and the recent management shakeup is not helping matters. China Mobile is having trouble getting Android to work with Chinese characters and integrating it into its existing data services.
By the time Android phones seriously hit the market next year, there will be more than 10 million iPhones and many more Blackberries and other smart phones to contend with. Android holds a lot of promise and is generating a lot of excitement among developers, who are already creating interesting mobile apps for the platform. But without phones in consumer’s hands, it won’t matter how cool Android is.
Getting Android right is immensely important to Google, which faces a huge platform shift as the mobile Web finally starts to take off. It needs to parlay its leading position on the Web today into a leading position on the mobile Web. And it cannot do that alone. The more players involved (carriers, developers, handset manufacturers), the greater the chance for delays or other hiccups. Contrast that with Apple’s approach to the iPhone, where it controls every aspect it can. Which platform will win in the end?