One year on, Android's not quite there yet

Google's phone software hasn't yet lived up to lofty expectations, but it could take off in just a few more months

2009: The Year of the Android Invasion? Not quite.

2009: The Year of the Android Invasion? Not quite.

After it has spent nearly a year on the market, analysts are reluctant to declare Android a success, but they say the platform could turn a corner in the next few months when many more phones are expected to go on sale.

Google and T-Mobile unveiled the first Android phone, the G1, at an event in New York City on Sept. 23 last year. The device hit stores a month later.

One million G1s were sold in the first six months, and almost the same number may have been sold in the period since, said Carl Howe, an analyst with the Yankee Group.

In August this year, T-Mobile introduced the second Android phone, the MyTouch, which like the first was made by Taiwan's HTC.

There are now more than 10,000 applications in the Android Market.

But Android hasn't yet lived up to the expectations set by Google, and some analysts say it doesn't yet present serious competition to Apple's market-leading iPhone.

Six million iPhones sold in its first year, and it then took off even more quickly, achieving a current installed base of 26 million since the device launched in June 2007, according to Howe. There are more than 50,000 applications in the iPhone App Store.

Still, compared to other, less iconic mobile-platform launches, Android has held its own, he said. "It's not the iPhone, but it's not bad for an open platform," Howe said.

When Google first unveiled the Android project in late 2007, it positioned the software as a way to foster innovation in mobile phones by allowing developers to collaborate on new products and services.

Google had complained about difficulties delivering products in the mobile market, where developers must often rewrite their applications for each phone operating system.

The search giant received some criticism for trying to solve the fragmentation problem by adding yet another phone platform. But Google predicted that Android would accelerate the pace at which new and compelling mobile services became available to consumers.

Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said at the introduction of Android that he envisioned the software running thousands of phone models.

With those lofty goals, Android seems off to a slow start. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Interpret, called the initial G1 "incomplete" for failing to support some basic functions such as Microsoft Exchange synch.

"Android has done a credible showing but they're going to have to do an awful lot more," he said. "They've proved it as a concept. The question is, how much is Google really behind this project in the long term?"

He wondered about Google's commitment because of its relative silence about the platform recently. "We haven't heard all that much directly from Google," he said.

It would be valuable to see a road map for what features Android will deliver in the future, he said.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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