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Google "Dream" Smart Phone Now Reality--Will It Catch Fire?

Tuesday, 23 Sep 2008 | 1:10 PM ET
Google Phone
Source: google-phone.com
Google Phone

It's here! It's here!! T-Mobile, Google and HTC took the wraps off the so-called "Dream" smart phone this morning at an event in New York, offering the latest competitive threat to Research in Motion's BlackBerry juggernaut and Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

The "Dream" name disappeared this morning, in favor of T-Mobile's "G1" moniker instead, a nod to the first handset powered by Google's mobile operating system dubbed Android. And now the market has to weigh whether this is merely another competitor available, or everything Blackberry and iPhone aren't.

Handset maker HTC takes a big step toward the latter by offering both a touch-screen interface as well as a slide out keyboard. A big step backward though since currently there's no Exchange support. Wow.

The phone also will have access to a wireless online applications store so consumers can download and update the device on the fly, similar to the model from Apple and its wildly popular App Store, what Android chief developer Andy Rubin says, will make the G1 "future-proof."

Unlike the Apple store, which is open to any developer willing to adhere to Apple's strict guidelines, the G1 runs on the open source Linux operating system and is essentially open to any developer wanting to create programs, or apps, for the device. Toward that end, Google created the Open Handset Alliance late last year, working with T-Mobile, Sprint-Nextel, Intel and Motorola. Noticeably absent: AT&T and Verizon, which are the main distributors of BlackBerrys and iPhone.

At the same time, the G1 will also feature a music player that links up to the increasingly popular online music download store powered by Amazon.com.

Still, while G1 carries the Google connection, it has a long way to go to foster the kind of cult, fanatic following that characterize both iPhone and BlackBerry. While that may be an issue for T-Mobile and HTC, Google doesn't seem to mind. That's because it's trying to get Android on as many handsets as possible as quickly as possible, as it tries to exploit what some experts say will be explosive growth in mobile advertising.

A year from now, if there's 50 phones like this, maybe it's got some impact potential. But for now, it's way too early to call this a success. Or even a success-in-training.

Meantime, all non-Windows based handset competitors got some good news this morning, with Microsoft notifying partners that it would delay its highly anticipated Mobile & operating system. The mobile operating system from Microsoft was supposed to be available no later than February of next year. Microsoft now says it'll be delayed into the second half of 2009 instead. It's a big problem for Microsoft, especially as iPhone 3G continues to gain momentum, RIM prepares to release new models of BlackBerry, and G1 starts to see traction in the marketplace.

T-Mobile will sell the G1 for $179 with a two-year contract, it'll be available to consumers on Oct. 22, and analysts think the company will sell about a half million units in the fourth quarter.

Remember that iPhone sold 1 million 3G iPhones in its first weekend, and about 4 million units since, so T-Mobile's got a ways to go to catch that kind of fire. Not to say it won't, but lets keep things in perspective as we assess the hype surrounding the "Dream."

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