Android is about advertising, not the enterprise

The first Android phone clearly indicates that the device was designed to help Google gain a foothold in the mobile advertising market.

J. Gold Associates recently conducted a study of large and small businesses regarding their expectations for which mobile platform they expect to use within the next three years. The study of North American companies found that Android comes in last place, with 4.8 percent of businesses in the study saying that the platform will be important to them within the next three years.

Microsoft doesn't see Android as a competitor to Windows Mobile. "It's not even supporting Exchange, so I really doubt this is going to be going after the market that we do," said Scott Rockfeld, group product manager at Microsoft's Windows Mobile group. Microsoft has recently tweaked its marketing message from pitching Windows Mobile as exclusively a business tool to portraying the device as a single phone that appeals to people while they're working and playing.

Still, since Android is an open platform, developers can build applications that might interest enterprise users. "With the open sourcing, we should see as many enterprise apps as we would see consumer apps," said Wigginton.

Google's success in the market could benefit all mobile users, be they consumers or business users, in the form of lower prices. Onlookers have speculated that Google could help subsidize Android phones using revenue earned from advertising to the devices. "I don't know if Google is subsidizing it or not, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities," said Wigginton. The G1 will cost $179 when it becomes available in late October in the U.S.

Some analysts say they don't expect Android to be an overnight success, but given time it could challenge its competitors. "The G1 represents a promising start, and Google has pockets deep enough to outspend and compete with its competitors," said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight.

Once other Android phones start appearing, the platform could gain momentum. "There will be more to come in 2009 when manufacturers such as Samsung and LG will deliver their devices. Android has the potential to become the de facto operating system for Linux, and we expect sales to reach around 10 percent of the smartphone market in 2011," said Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza.

It's unclear yet which operator will launch the next Android phone. T-Mobile appears to have gotten a head start on its competitors. During the launch event on Tuesday, Cole Brodman, chief technology and innovation officer for T-Mobile USA, mentioned that the operator had been working with Google and HTC as far back as three years ago. Their partnership then predates the introduction of Android and the alliance of companies that back it in November 2007. Sprint, NTT DoCoMo, Telefonica and other operators around the globe are also members of the consortium.

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Nancy Gohring

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