Google Android Plans Hit Setbacks
Andrew R. Hickey
Google Android initially was expected to be available by the second half of this year, but many of the wireless carriers and Android partners have struggled to hit that deadline, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Still, device makers are working feverishly to add devices that run Android to their active roster. T-Mobile said it plans to have an Android-powered phone come fourth quarter. Sprint, however, won't be able to hit that target, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.
Sprint's delays stem from the carrier wanting to develop its own branded services on Android, rather than just carry a device with Google features already built in. In addition, shifts among the executive ranks at Sprint may also be contributing to the holdup. Unnamed sources told the Journal that Sprint is considering scrapping its Android device plans for its current 3G network and may focus on developing an Android-based device for the faster 4G network it is working on with a host of partners, including Google.
Deciding against a 3G Android device may be a wise move for Sprint, especially with Apple's recently announced 3G iPhone—which features a faster connection and smaller price tag than first-generation iPhones—continues to create waves and capture mind share among the device-buying populace. The 3G Apple iPhone is expected to be available in July.
Elsewhere, China Mobile has said its Android launch will be on hold until either late this year or early in 2009. Quoting insiders, the Journal said China Mobile is hitting roadblocks in translating Android software from Roman characters into Chinese and is having trouble merging its own branded data services onto the Android platform.
The delays come despite Google's proclamation at last month's I/O Conference that devices would be ready by the second quarter of this year. At the conference, Google stoked the flames and demoed an open-source Android-based device, a 3G HSDPA device based on a Qualcomm processor with a Synaptics touch screen, 128 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash memory.
Along with hitting development snags, Google and Android have also come under fire from mobile software developers that claim it's difficult to develop programs for the devices. Google, for its part, continues to make finishing touches on the underlying software.
According to the Journal, managing software development and giving the 30-plus partners, dubbed the Open Handset Alliance, the opportunity to push for new features is taking more time than expected.
"This is where the pain happens," Google's director of mobile platforms, Andy Rubin, told the Journal. "We are very, very close."
Google's setbacks come as the LiMo Foundation, another consortium working on an open-source Linux-based mobile operating system, is gathering steam. The LiMo Foundation is seen as Google Android's main rival in the set-to-explode open-source handset market.
Last month, wireless heavyweight Verizon Wireless snubbed Google to join the LiMo Foundation, filling the last seat available on LiMo's board of directors. At the same time, LiMo also added cellular stalwarts such as SK Telecom, Infineon Technologies, Kvaleberg, Mozilla, Red Bend Software and SFR to its active roster of partners.
LiMo and Android are poised for heated competition, with LiMo having Verizon on board and Android touting the inclusion of Sprint and T-Mobile. In addition, AT&T, the No. 1 mobile service provider in the U.S., hinted in April that it was interested in riding the Google Android wave.
The LiMo Foundation launched in January 2007 and includes about 40 mobility leaders, including Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone, a partial Verizon owner.
Despite pledging its allegiance to LiMo, Verizon's network vice president, Kyle Malady, has said that the wireless carrier has not completely ruled out becoming a member of the Android team as well.
"If devices come along that are interesting to us and our customers, we'd absolutely look at that," he said at that time of Verizon's addition to the LiMo lineup. Third parties could also sell Android devices to Verizon Wireless customers if they work on the Verizon network, he added.