Motorola and Verizon finally revealed Droid X this week, and with it comes the inevitable questions about whether the new device can challenge Apple's mighty iPhone and how much it will do to propel sales of Google Android-based smartphones.
Droid X is certainly a powerful phone and will prove a worthy addition to the Verizon-carried Droid family when it goes on sale July 15. But what's also clear from the Droid X launch is that Google has bigger priorities than dislodging Apple and other contenders from smartphone dominance. According to Google, it sees an opening for Droid X and powerful Android 2.2 phones as business tools, not just consumer toys.
Android sales are helping to grow Google's mobile profile, and grow it rapidly. According to Google, sales of Android-based devices show no signs of slowing down; in a statement announcing the Droid X, Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering for Google, said the arrival of Google Android 2.2 -- Froyo -- could be enough to put Droid X and other Android devices into the hands of business users.
"There are 160,000 new Android-powered devices activated daily and Android Market has grown to over 65,000 applications," Rubin said in a Wednesday statement. "Plus later this summer, Verizon Wireless and Motorola will update all the Droid by Motorola phones to be the latest 2.2 software. For customers, this means great new features and improved browser performance. For developers, this will be provide new tools such as cloud-to-device messaging and enterprise functionality."
Enterprise acceptance will be a key to Android's continued growth. Although Wednesday's announcement touted first the range of consumer-centric features for Droid X, tucked near the bottom of the release was Rubin's suggestion on enterprise functionality, and also a suggestion from the companies that once the Android 2.2 update is made, "corporate users can enjoy push delivery of e-mail; live widgets that stream messages to the home screen; filter widgets to differentiate work and home e-mail; corporate directoy and Global look-up along with a unified calendar for Enterprise and sync with Google Calendar."
The inclusion of Adobe Flash 10.1, which will come as part of the Android 2.2 over-the-air upgrade for Droid X and other Droid phones, is also aimed at enterprises. Shantanu Narayen, Adobe's CEO, said in the joint statement that consumers will take advantage, but also told several reporters that the multimedia experience Flash 10.1 can provide is something enterprise businesses will want, too.
Despite its momentum, Android has a long way to go to catch Apple, whose iPhone 4 sees its general release today.
According to Gartner, sales of Android devices in the first quarter of 2010 rose 707 percent year-over-year in North America, going from 575,000 units sold to about 5.2 million units sold. But as of mid-May, the iPhone is still ahead of Android by some 3 million units globally, Gartner noted.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt made the media rounds Wednesday and said the competition is not so much about one phone versus another as it is creating a better mobile ecosystem. May the best platform win, in other words.
"I don't think it's a personal battle, I think it's a competition for who's going to own the next set of mobile platforms," said Schmidt in an interview with CNBC Wednesday. "The fact of the matter is this is where all the action is, it's where all the software developers are going. Everything is moving mobile and we are participating in that."