February 13, 2008

Google Android Prototypes Appear in Barcelona

As the World Mobile Congress opened, ambitious chip makers set their sights on developing the first phones to use Google's Android operating system.

While Google stayed secluded in convention suites with signs which read "Meetings in Progress," and refused to comment on Android, chip developers on the convention floor were fervently showing off their newest prototypes.

Although the prototypes lack trendy design, they were able to showcase the potential that Android brings to the mobile market. For example, users of Android-based smart phones will be able to navigate the Web and find full-size pages rather than a Web resized to fit their mobile screen.

Texas Instruments Inc's prototype was a clunky black with its flagship OMAP3430 multimedia processor.

Ramesh Iyer, an ecosystems manager at Texas Instruments, said that the real benefit of Android is that it shortens by about one-third the time it takes to get a cell phone from concept to market.

Iyer continued to explain that Android contains all of the necessary building blocks for a mobile device, also noting that Texas Instruments were able to set up Android applications on top of its processor is under a week.

Smart phones, which combine web and voice features, can typically take up to 18 months, to six or seven months.

"It makes the idea of developing and customizing software very easy," Iyer said, adding that "the chip is no longer the bottleneck."

Qualcomm Inc.'s prototype appeared to have a series of circuit boards around the display.

Rob Woodford, who works in technical marketing at Qualcomm, also noted that application development is faster and easier with Android than with smart phone technology. He showed off a "Whack-a-Mole" game Qualcomm engineers developed in a couple hours.

"What Android is doing for Linux is consolidating a huge fragmented market. Google is the first who can pull together the fringe market and pull something out of it," said Qualcomm product manager Jason Bremner. "For us it is a great opportunity to get in on the ground level of a new ecosystem and create a new environment."

Qualcomm demonstrated devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile system right next to the Android prototype in order to dispel any notions of favoritism.

"It is not like we are saying, 'Hey, we're picking Android over Microsoft,'" he said. "Our end goal is to enable all operating systems."

Neither Google nor the chip makers are willing to say when a smart phone equipped with Android will hit the market. The chip makers say the decision is up to Google.

Around 30 phone, chip and software companies have already been lined up to further develop Android systems.


On the Net:

Open Handset Alliance

World Mobile Congress

Information About Android