Never Fear: Android Phones Coming Right on Time in Q4 '08

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| Published: June 24, 2008

Yesterday I read a few interesting things about Google's Android mobile
operating system.  First was an article in the latest issue of Wired
(my subscription to which I think I'm going to let run out).  Second,
third, and fourth were a handful of articles online stemming from this
Wall Street Journal post that got some folks' knickers in a collective
twist.

The Wired article actually
wasn't a bad read, as it told the backstory of Sidekick inventor Andy
Rubin trying to get Google Co-Founder Larry Page interested in his
little mobile startup called Android.  Page wound up buying Android
outright and now it's the basis of Google's mobile division (which
Rubin oversees) and the forthcoming GPhone ... or, actually, a whole
slew of GPhones ... well, Android phones, to be more precise.  The end
of the article touched upon the trouble Google will likely face in
getting US network operators to carry its open source, do what you want
with it handsets. See, Android is all about the end user installing
apps, customizing the OS, and being free to mess with his phone while
the US network operator business is all about keeping handsets tightly
locked down so users will have to buy ringtones, applications, and
services direct from said network operators.

So there's a legitimate set of hurdles to Android adoption by the
big US Carriers, no doubt - Sprint and T-Mobile have signed up for the
Android Alliance (or whatever they're calling it) already.  But Google
knows that and their timetable for the first Android powered phones
coming to market in late 2008 has taken that into account from the
get-go, even if they haven't gone out of their way to proclaim to the
media, "We're going to have a heckofa time getting AT&T to carry
Android!"

That's why Monday's WSJ piece was so silly - or the alarmist responses it inspired in the blogosphere were silly, anyway.  Sure, you
can nitpick and say, "First Google said second half of '08, now they're
saying 4th quarter.  What's up with that?"  But really, the 4th quarter
is still in the second half.  So give it a rest.  Yeah, there have been
issues with the software development process, and yeah if you Google
around you'll find complaints about how the Android team has been
dealing with developers, but honestly I don't think there's anything to
worry about here.  Last November Google said, "Android phone in second
half '08."  The WSJ piece this week said, "Google now says that the handsets won't arrive until
the fourth quarter ... T-Mobile USA expects to deliver an Android-powered phone in the fourth period."

I'm still hearing that HTC will deliver an Android phone before 2008 is through, and frankly that demo of the "Dream" at the Google I/O conference got me pretty excited for it.  Odds are we'll see a few other Android devices in early '09 - just in time for trade show season (CES in January followed by MWC and CTIA in the Winter and Spring).  Sure, Google's going to have to grease some wheels to get Android phones in Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile stores with their open-source-ness fully intact.  But don't forget that Google has a ton of cash, a ton of influence, and that whole "Verizon has to open some of their new spectrum to all devices" clause on their side.

Android phones are coming, and the first one is still on course to be here before 2008 is over.  Everybody take a deep breath, it's gonna be alright.  What's going to be more important than when the phones arrive is how true Google can stay to their vision of an open-source platform while also gaining access to the wide distribution channels afforded by the likes of Verizon Wireless and AT&T.