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Andy Rubin is Google's Senior Director of Mobile Platforms. He is a (if not the) key figure behind the team effort that is Android. And, as can be gathered from his recent interview with cnet, Mr. Rubin is a sensible businessman. I personally don't feel excessive in using the term visionary. And I'm not just saying that because his name reminds me of my favorite sandwich. Reading that cnet piece, I don't suspect hyperbole in Rubin's declaration of Android's revolutionary status, either.

In an effort to bring a free, open operating system to as many devices and people as possible, Google has created three agreements for carriers and OEMs to enter into - each taking advantage of the same inherent pliability that allows the software to run on so many different hardware configurations.

These three flavors of Android were recently explained by The New York Times as follows:

1. The obligation-free option: device manufacturers can download a free version of Android, load onto their devices and provide access to as many or as few apps as they want. But the manufacturers cannot preload popular Google applications, like Gmail or Google calendar.

2. The small strings option: Same as Option 1, except that manufacturers sign a distribution agreement to include on the phone Google applications. Of the 18 to 20 phones coming out this year, Mr. Rubin said, 12 to 14 subscribe to this option.

3. The bigger strings option or the no-censorship version: These phones Google calls “The Google Experience.” They are physically distinguishable by the “Google” logo on the phone. They include a range of Google applications that the carrier and handset maker agree not to remove from the phone.
Another interesting caveat is that option 3 makes provisions for third-party devs: no censorship allowed. And if there's one area where Google needs to address Apple directly, it's in the Market.

Alongside all of the other great news emerging from Google I/O 2009, is the promise of at least 18 Android phones by the end of the year. This number takes into account only those phones for which Google has contracted (options 2 and 3). The amount of devices operating under option 1 could match that number (c'mon... it's possible) - but chances are that many of those will turn up in Asia.

Whatever the case... yes, I'm gonna say it: 2009 is the year of the Android phone! Perhaps not the year of ravenous market dominance, but the year in which Android is truly introduced to the masses. As Rubin told cnet:
"It takes about 18 months to build a phone from end to end. What we wanted to do for our market entry was make sure that we had one successful showcase product to prove that the product was reliable and robust and ready to go. We chose HTC as our partner for that."
So step one was a success. What we have seen is but a shadow, a glimpse into the... OK, I'll stop. It's going to be an interesting year for Android - that's for sure.

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