Taiwanese operator forecasts strong Asian demand for Android

Far EasTone sees 20 to 30 new Android handsets from Taiwanese makers in the first half of 2010, and more app contests

The popularity of Google's mobile operating system, Android, will continue to grow next year with as many as 30 new handsets from Taiwanese manufacturers, and more app contests by mobile network operators throughout Asia, a mobile network executive said Thursday.

Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) became the second operator in Asia to launch Acer's Android-based Liquid smartphone on Thursday.

The operator has been betting on Android-based smartphones to help it combat rivals Chunghwa Telecom, which sells the iPhone in Taiwan, and Taiwan Mobile, which sells Blackberry handsets on the island.

In the first half of next year, between 20 and 30 new Android-based smartphones from Taiwanese companies such as Acer, High Tech Computer (HTC), Asustek Computer and others, as well as a new Android app contest in the region, will boost use of the OS, said Roger Chen, vice president of FET's product development and enabling center, on the sidelines of a news conference in Taipei.

He declined to comment specifically on the handsets or companies involved in making them due to nondisclosure agreements.

The network operator has also launched an app store to promote Android products and services offered by FET, particularly those in Chinese.

"We will focus on Android first, but we will extend to Symbian and then Windows Mobile," said Chen. FET will wait to include apps for Windows Mobile until version 7 comes out, he said.

One way FET will promote Android app creation for its online store is by hosting another contest similar to one held earlier this year, offering cash prizes for the best apps.

A group of Asian mobile phone operators, the Conexus Mobile Alliance, promoted Android app contests this year, drawing thousands of entries in apps created in local languages.

The effort is similar to Google's Android Developer Challenge, which is aimed at encouraging software developers to make applications for the Android mobile operating system and ran for its second year this year.

The Conexus Mobile Alliance, which includes 240 million subscribers from companies such as NTT DoCoMo of Japan, KT Corporation of South Korea, Indosat of Indonesia and FET of Taiwan, launched similar contests in each of their countries this year, with finalists announced in Hong Kong last month.

"We will make it a yearly contest," said Chen, "we will start earlier next year and it will be bigger."

FET only vetted around 100 Android applications for the contest, he said, because the promotion started too late in the year this year.

In the future, FET hopes to see Android and apps for the mobile operating system used in mobile Internet devices, netbooks, set top boxes and other devices besides smartphones.

A number of Android smartphones hit world markets this year, including from makers such as Motorola, Samsung Electronics, High Tech Computer (HTC), LG Electronics and Acer.

Acer's Liquid smartphone was FET's second Android-based handset this year, and it will promote one more before 2009 ends, said Chen.

Google developed Android to make Internet services such as social networking sites, e-mail, online maps and particularly Google services more easily accessible on smartphones.

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