This week at the Mobile World Congress 2008 trade show in Barcelona, Spain, Google and its hardware partners for the first time showed off prototype smart phones based on Google's Android design. Companies such as ARM, Marvell, NEC, Qualcomm, ST Microelectronics, and Texas Instruments, all of which are making various hardware components for Android, demonstrated prototype Android handsets, giving onlookers a first glimpse at Google's mobile platform.
The hardware, while still in prototype form, somewhat resembles a cross between Apple's iPhone and a Blackberry-type device, with both a large screen and a hardware keyboard. But the big deal, of course, is the software, which is simple, easy to navigate, and offers PC-like Web browsing functionality. And Google has opened up Android as an open design that it feels will spur innovation and competition. Unlike Apple's highly proprietary iPhone, Android will be offered on a multitude of handsets from numerous hardware makers, and will ultimately be available via every wireless carrier.
Early reports are very positive, and industry experts seem energized by a platform that should jumpstart PC-like usage scenarios on far more mobile devices. Hardware maker TI, for example, claimed that it was able to get Android running on top of its processor in less than a week because of its open design. And wireless carriers believe that Android will cut the time to market--a longtime weak link in the wireless market--from 18 months to 6 months.
While Google and its partners have yet to commit to a specific release schedule, analysts believe we will see the first Android-based hardware designs sometime this year. A flood of Android devices could be ready in time for the holidays.