Originating Author: G Berton Latamore
Since Google's announcement of the Android handheld operating environment back in November 2007, little has been heard about it publicly. Now hints are surfacing that Android is still alive and may be approaching its introduction into handheld markets.
The big clue is the announcement that Nokia will buy the remaining share of the Symbion smartphone environment (it already owns a majority share) and turn the assets over to a new Open Source consortium it wants to create with other major Symbion users. Industry observers including my friend and former META Group VP Jack Gold (www.jgoldassociates.com) see this as an anti-Android move. Recently Morgan Slain, CEO of handheld software developer SplashData, told me to look for the introduction of an initial Android handheld before the end of 2008.
But will anyone notice? Yes, Android is built on Linux and Java, and yes, Google attracted quite a few software developers (SplashData among them) with its contest to create applications for Android in early 2008. But in a market already overcrowded with WinMobile, Symbion, Blackberry, Palm, and the Apple iPhone/Touch, is there room for another new kid on this block?
Slain says Android will feature blow-away technology, and he should know. But it will take a lot to make an impression on a market that is moving to a new generation already. Of course consumers won't care what the underlying technology is. They will want the right combination of features, price, and especially sex appeal in their next handheld. In this very competitive market, a new player will have a difficult time making an impression.
Gold has just published a creative idea. He predicts that Google and Nokia will get together and merge Android with Symbion. That might make sense. It would give Symbion an injection of high-end technology and bring new developers – those who entered Google's developers' contest – to the platform. And, as Gold says, it will help Symbion earn its bones in the Open Source gang. Whether it will really happen, however, remains to be seen.
Action Item: Don't hold your breath for the appearance of Android. Do, however, give Symbion a serious consideration, along with Blackberry and Apple iPhone, as a full smartphone technology that the organization may want to support. It is outgrowing its consumer gaming roots and sprouting real functionality, whether or not it creates its own symbiosis with Android.