Rebuffing rumors that a widely anticipated open source mobile phone platform was facing delays, reports emerged yesterday that Google’s Android software may become available as early as October.
According to two technology writers from The New York Times, Laura M. Holson and Miguel Helft, T-Mobile (News - Alert) USA will be the first carrier to offer a phone powered by the platform.
“The high-end phone is expected to match many of the capabilities of Apple’s iPhone and other so-called smartphones that run software from Palm, Research in Motion, Microsoft and Nokia (News - Alert) to access the Internet and perform computer-like functions,” the Times says.
The writers cite “people briefed on the company’s plans,” but who weren’t authorized to disclose those plans, as sources.
The paper’s report confirms rumors that began spreading in July that T-Mobile would include Google Android on its nationwide third-generation wireless network launch later this year.
According to IT writers who track developments in the world of blogging, T-Mobile is set to offer service in some 20-plus cities starting Oct. 1.
“And the carrier plans to include the HTC Dream smartphone as one of its first 3G phones to launch with the network, according to reports,” the bloggers say.
The Times’ report confirms those rumors.
The HTC phone, which many gadget sites are calling the “dream,” according to the Times, will have a touch screen that’s similar to the Apple iPhone’s.
“But the screen also slides out to expose a full five-row keyboard,” the Times writes. “A video of the phone has been posted recently on YouTube (News - Alert). A person who has seen the HTC device said it matched the one in the video.”
Yet it isn’t clear just when a phone that uses the Android platform will become available, according to the Times.
“The phone’s release date depends on how soon the Federal Communications Commission certifies that the Google software and the HTC phone meet network standards,” the writers say. “Executives at all three companies are hoping to announce the phone in September because they would benefit from holiday season sales.”
Like the iPhone, devices using Google’s Android platform are expected to allow users to tailor their phone by downloading whatever applications they want. The phones also would be Internet-friendly – a feature that’s expected to allow carriers to charge more for data plans, the Times says.
Android phones made headlines when Google unveiled them at a demonstration during a developers’ conference in May.
The device’s touch-screen display included a number of colorful icons that launched Web programs such as g-mail, or could notify a user of imminent appointments, reminders, notes and unread e-mail.
Google’s director of mobile platforms, Andy Rubin – founder of Android, which Google bought three years ago – said some of the software’s features were shown for the first time at the conference.
Rubin emphasized that the Android software – widely seen as the lynchpin of the Google’s so-called “Open Handset Alliance (News - Alert),” a consortium of hardware, software and telecom companies that’s working on an open source mobile platform for developers – is secure.
“Many of the devices used today are based on 20-year-old platforms, when security wasn’t really thought about,” Rubin said, according to reports. “Starting from a clean slate has its advantages. This is a platform that will let the carriers to more innovative things.”
Industry insiders say that T-Mobile, a distant fourth place in the U.S. wireless market with about 29 million customers at the end of December, spent more than $4 billion to buy spectrum in the 2006 Advanced Wireless Service auction held by the Federal Communications Commission. The new spectrum more than doubled the company’s spectrum offering and finally gave it the necessary bandwidth to build a high-speed wireless network.
Meanwhile, as the time approaches when Google Android-supported phones actually hit the market, industry insiders such as Richard Wong, a venture capitalist at Accel Partners, which invests in mobile start-ups, are telling the Times that the launch is “an important milestone in the industry.”
He said that what’s most exciting is that Google’s Android, like Apple’s iPhone, is forcing, “others to innovate faster,” the Times reported.
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael’s articles, please visit his columnist page.