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Android is set to take on smartphone market

23 сентября 2008

When Apple launched the iPhone 14 months ago it shook up the market for so-called smartphone handsets. The technology company highlighted the true potential of what has become known as the wireless internet – accessing internet-based services and content using a mobile phone rather than a personal computer.

Despite its limitations, the iPhone has proved a big success for Apple and mobile operators including AT&T, the telecoms company that has exclusive rights to sell the handset in the US.

But like most other smartphones including Research In Motion’s BlackBerry family, the iPhone uses proprietary technology, which enables Apple and its partners to keep a tight grip over what software applications are loaded on to the device and how it is used by consumers.

On Tuesday, Google is hoping to break the mould by unveiling the first smartphone running a fully “open” operating system, called Android.

The open format means that software developers can, free of charge, devise mobile internet services that run on the phone.

Made by Taiwan’s HTC and called the G1, the Android smartphone is expected to be the first of many. Google sees these handsets as an integral part of its strategy to position itself as the mobile search and advertising market leader.

Google and many technology analysts believe the mobile internet – and the advertising revenues associated with it – could eventually eclipse the fixed-line internet. They argue the online advertising market has grown quickly in part because consumers were able to purchase PCs from multiple manufacturers, and then cheaply and easily hook them up to the internet so as to access content and services from a wide range of suppliers.

But there are only about 1bn PCs in the world, compared with 3bn mobile phones, so the advertising market on the wireless internet has huge potential.

Google’s mobile strategy could have serious implications for at least three sets of players – handset makers, software companies responsible for smartphone operating systems and mobile operators.

In addition to HTC, Samsung and LG Electronics, two of the big five handset makers, are expected to launch Android-powered smartphones early next year. This will put extra pressure on Nokia, the world’s largest mobile maker, whose smartphones run on the rival Symbian operating system.

Nokia responded to the threat posed by Android in June. It announced plans to take control of Symbian and make its operating system available to other handset makers on an open source basis, in a similar way to what Google is doing with Android.

Apple’s move to enable software developers to create new applications for the iPhone and make them available through its iTunes “App Store” looks to be a step in the same direction as Google. More than 3,000 software applications can be found in the App store, launched in July. Google plans to emulate these arrangements – users of the G1 phone will be able to download applications from the company’s website.

Some of the mobile operators feel uneasy about Google, and Nokia, getting into mobile internet services.

Источник: Financial Times

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