By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated February 11, 2008.
Android phones are finally reality, with Texas Instruments and others showing prototype handsets at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain.
The TI handset is based on its OMAP850 processor, and includes Wireless LAN and Bluetooth technologies. The company also showed an OMAP3430-based Zoom Mobile Development Kit from Logic PD.
TI said its phone will have single-button access to such applications as Web browsing, e-mail and video, and will enable a user to readily integrate applications.
TI is one of more than 30 companies that have announced support for Google's Android platform, and other demonstrations are being reported from the Barcelona show. ARM Holdings is showing an Android device, as are Qualcomm, NEC, Marvell, and ST Microelectronics. Deutsche Telecom's T-Mobile, HTC, and others have said they expect to sell Android-based phones this year.
There had been much speculation last year that Google would release a so-called G-phone, but Android could bring a variety of phones from many manufacturers.
Android is a Linux-based open platform for mobile devices that was announced late last year by Google and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), whose members include TI. It provides an open-source operating system, middleware and a few initial applications, and is an effort to jump-start innovation and compatibility across mobile devices.
Android has been touted as a platform that will facilitate mobile Web browsing and the direct porting of PC-based applications. By some estimates, half the cost of mobile-application development is adapting for a variety of platforms and devices.
Missing: Developers and Ecosystem
The devices not only demonstrate Android, noted IDC analyst Chris Hazelton, but they also demonstrate that various OHA members are committed to the platform. Android is clearly not vaporware, he said, but applications and developers are not yet out, so it's too early to tell if the platform will offer capabilities and uses different from what's already available.
Hazelton said another missing piece is a "content-delivery ecosystem" so that content and applications can get to the devices. He compared that ecosystem to the Apple iPhone's iTunes, Sony Ericsson's music services, and other delivery mechanisms.
But Android is not the only open platform for mobile devices to show up at the Mobile World Congress.
A group of companies led by the LiMo Foundation and including Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Matsushita, Samsung and Vodafone is also developing a common, open platform. Motorola, NTT DoCoMo and Samsung are members of both LiMo and OHA.
Avi Greengart of Current Analysis, who is at the Barcelona show, noted there is at least one key difference. "LiMo is backed by a bunch of different companies," he said, "and each one's implementation is incompatible with the other." But, he noted, Android is backed by Google and works across devices.