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9/24/2008
11:20 PM
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Android - Let the permanent beta begin

Unless you have been hiding under a proverbial rock, you know that T-Mobile and Google finally outed what has to be the worst kept secret in product launch history the Android-based phone from HTC, aka G1. You can find pretty comprehensive discussions of the G1 speeds and feeds here and here.

The overall attitude of being "underwhelmed" by the G1 misses the larger motivation for Google to even get into the mobile space - which is to extend their search and advertising empire to the next inevitable frontier.

Sure there are a whole host of of features missing in the G1 like desktop sync, integration with Exchange/Notes, etc. But Google has left that to the developers they hope to attract to Android - Google wants to make sure that they have a working mobile platform that they can get into consumers' hands ASAP and then mine the usage of Google apps (which they have shown an amazingly scary ability to do on the desktop side) to optimize both Android and the apps for the next set of devices. All this while Microsoft delays Windows Mobile by at least six months.

There are still a whole lot of open issues to be worked out with respect to Android which will determine its fate especially in terms of building a vibrant developer ecosystem, including : how much control will Google exert over the Android Marketplace, how robust does the Android SDK become, how transparent Google becomes with its developer community as Android evolves. See Michael Mace's great post here on the appstore and API discussion, to understand the dynamics of an application ecosystem and what can go wrong.

I will personally be watching how Android plays out in emerging economies, like India, where almost 80% of the market is pre-paid, mobile devices are not subsidized like we in the US are used to, and where a large majority of the population will be accessing the internet for the first time over a mobile device.

The reduction in the Bill of Materials (BOM) that Android can provide a device manufacturer has the potential to alter the low cost handset (LCH) market dramatically both from a cost standpoint as also the type of user experience for the mobile internet - something that Nokia and Motorola have been desperately trying to do with lukewarm success. (See this post from me for a discussion of the LCH space.)

Or how about an Android-based handset on a ad-subsidized carrier ? (if you are interested, check out Blyk - the pan-European MVNO that provides ad-subsidized handsets to the 16-24 year crowd). Might this be one option on the Clearwire network at some point in the not-too-distant future ? (remember, Google's $500million investment in the re-structured Clearwire JV included teaming on advertising services and being the preferred search provider as well)

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