By Jennifer Martinez
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Fourteen of the world's
largest mobile phone and chip makers, including Sony Ericsson,
Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and ARM Holdings Plc (ARM.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz),
joined the Open Handset Alliance on Tuesday to support the
Android mobile device platform developed by Google Inc
(GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
The new members' pledge to back the Android software is a
significant feat for Google in the mobile phone industry, as
its T-Mobile G1 phone takes on rival Apple Inc's (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)
popular iPhone 3G.
But despite the big-name additions to the Open Handset
Alliance, analysts say what matters is whether the new members
introduce more Android-supported smartphones in 2009 and 2010
to edge out competitors who also use open-source Linux software
for mobile phones, such as Nokia-owned smartphone software
"It's great to get these folks on board...now (the Open
Handset Alliance) has to make sure these licenses actually ship
products," said research firm Jupitermedia's vice president of
mobile strategy, Michael Gartenberg.
The first company set to introduce a mobile device that
uses the Android operating system is Sony Ericsson, a joint
venture of Japan's Sony Corp (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Sweden's Ericsson
(ERICb.ST: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). The company said on Tuesday it plans to introduce
the Android-supported mobile phone in mid-2009.
"Android is set to become a significant application
framework for mobile phones," Ericsson's head of mobile
platforms, Robert Puskaric, said in a statement.
The Open Handset Alliance said on Tuesday that each of its
members commits to developing applications and services for
mobile phones and handsets using the Android platform or
designing Android-compatible mobile devices.
Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc, Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and
Garmin Ltd (GRMN.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) also pledged their support, bringing the
total number of companies in the Open Handset Alliance to 47,
the Alliance said. These companies join earlier members of the
Alliance, such as the world's biggest chip maker Intel Corp
(INTC.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and mobile phone makers Motorola Inc (MOT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) .
Both Google and Apple have wooed developers to create
applications for their mobile devices, but Apple keeps a tight
grip on the iPhone's hardware and operating software. Google's
Android is open to being changed by outside developers.
The addition of new members to the Open Handset Alliance
gives Google-developed Android more heft in the battle over who
will dominate the mobile phone software market in coming years.
Android's biggest competitor is Symbian, which controls half of
the market and was acquired by Nokia (NOK1V.HE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the world's
biggest mobile phone maker, earlier this month.
Nokia contributes Symbian's assets to a not-for-profit
organization similar to the Open Handset Alliance, the Symbian
Foundation. Members of the Symbian Foundation have royalty-free
access to Symbian's software.
So far, 59 companies have said they plan to join the
Symbian Foundation, including Japan's third-largest wireless
carrier, Softbank (9984.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) .
Android also competes with Microsoft's Windows Mobile
operating system, which has been gaining ground.
With a range of companies jumping into the Alliance, such
as portable navigation device maker Garmin Ltd, Android has the
potential to be featured on devices other than mobile phones.
Each mobile phone maker also can modify the Android open source
software, which leaves the opportunity open for many future
"What's fascinating about Android is it's this malleable
thing. As these phones come out from other carriers it looks
and operates differently," said Greg Sterling, a Web analyst
with Sterling Market Intelligence. He added, "It seems more
people will jump on the bandwagon."
(Reporting by Jennifer Martinez, with additional reporting by
Sinead Carew in New York and Tarmo Virki in Helsinki; editing
by Gerald E. McCormick and Carol Bishopric)
source : http://www.reuters.com/