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Android 2.0: The iPhone killer at last?

Android is wild card in smartphone wars

What could trip up Android

Despite the promise, there are several factors that should give any user, IT operation, or developer pause before investing in Android.

The first is that Android has taken four versions over two years to reach the same ballpark as the iPhone; WebOS did it in a dot-one upgrade a few months after its release.

Google's slow pace is worrisome, calling to mind Microsoft's troubled approach to mobile development. Plus having all those versions and their variants risk confounding app developers, who may stay away.

Which also brings up a major failure of Windows Mobile: the fact that every device was significantly different - something that Android also risks.

This fracture made both app development and IT support impossible for Windows Mobile, as there were too many exceptions to manage.

Samsung Google Android phone

It's also why Java's presence on 1 billion "feature phones" - the not-so-smartphones that comprise the majority of mobile phone sales still - is meaningless to developers and IT.

Each device is essentially its own platform, creating a fragmentation that benefits no one but the carriers who use it to push continual purchases of new devices as if they were games or jewellery.

Android will fade away if it follows the Windows Mobile or Java tracks.

Also, Android started as a Google-oriented platform, meant to promote Google's Gmail and other cloud services.

That degree of lock-in was more than even Apple or Microsoft try to achieve, and it didn't work in Google's case.

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Google is a powerhouse, but it fails much more than it succeeds, and using its mobile OS to help make its cloud offerings the new monopoly wasn't a bright idea.

But I'm less concerned over Google's mixed success record than I am about the active support of Verizon and Motorola.

Neither company is market-savvy, nor known for innovation (well, Motorola once was, but that was a long time ago, and its floundering in the 1990s and 2000s isn't encouraging).

Worse, both Verizon and Motorola are tuning their app dev environments to support their specific markets (Verizon's network and Motorola's devices), which is likely to conflict with each other's goals, Google's goals, and developers' goals at some point.

Apple is no less self-interested, but there's little confusion as to who's in charge. Android could become yet another failed partnership among selfish, oafish industry heavyweights.

Still, it's clear that Android is worth watching. We'll soon know if this time there's a credible "iPhone killer."

Android 2.0 has the best chance of joining the BlackBerry and iPhone as a mobile device that will actually matter to users, IT, and developers in, say, 2012 - but it's still just a chance.

NEXT: All hail the consumer

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