Google Android: The dude? Or big dud?

Today's the day Android strutted its stuff to the world. Is Android the game-changer for the SmartPhone industry, a real contender to the iPhone or just another cell phone OS? It's definitely not just another cell phone OS, as evidenced by all the attention around today's launch. Google has technology that other phones use but Google Android will exploit. Google search, of course is the 800-pound gorilla in search. Add Google maps (including a compass feature Google demonstrated in the T-Mobile [HTC] G1 phone), Google Webkit and the Chrome Web browser (a Chrome Lite comes on Android), Google Talk, YouTube, Google Apps, and so forth. This has allowed Google to layer in a single sign-on for all Google apps, and Android syncs data with your Google account for contacts, calendar, chat and likely other applications in the future.

Android's launch today was a much different affair from what the iPhone experienced. While Android's a very big deal, there was no Steve Jobs giving the "we're out to change the world" pitch. And it was missing the whole Apple "we control the vertical, we control the horizontal" Big Brother approach to consumers. Android has much bigger potential to impact the industry than the closed hardware/app store Apple offers with the iPhone. As much as iPhone lovers salivate over their locked-up phones, Android could bust the industry wide open. Google has a whole consortium of vendors allied with them through the Open Handset Alliance. And Android has courted app developers, including making Android open source (with some controversy, however, about what's not been released yet). Amazon is planning an iTunes clone, according to one report.

Will there be lines around the block to get the T-Mobile G1 phone? Maybe, but I wouldn't be surprised if demand is more subdued than that at the initial iPhone launch. Google Android's strategy is much more about getting Android on lots of different phones, not just one cool device. If you are an avid fan of Google online Web apps (Gmail, contacts, Gtalk, etc.), it's much more likely you'll rush down to get a G1 phone. Frankly, that's the draw for consumers today about Android. Android's not about winning one battle, but winning the war to be the cross-hardware cell phone OS.

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