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The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a great opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their latest gadgets, and smartphones generally have taken a backseat to laptops, HDTVs, and other products. But with multiple players looking to make their mark, smartphones and mobility should play a prominent role at this year's show.
Google's Android operating system is expected to power multiple handsets in 2009, and consumers should get a glimpse of what these smartphones will look like at CES. Forrester analyst Charles Golvin said the show could be a good indicator of how quickly cell phone manufacturers are adopting the open source platform.
Golvin said T-Mobile's launch of the Android-powered G1 has been a success, and there's still a lot of enthusiasm among some carriers, manufacturers, and developers. Motorola has backed Android in a major way, and consumers may get a sneak peak at some hardware. Motorola's Android line is expected to be a mid-level device that features heavy social networking integration, but co-CEO Sanjay Jha has said he doesn't expect devices to be available until the second half of 2009.
Samsung is reportedly readying a touch-screen Android phone that could have a similar form factor as the company's Instinct or Behold smartphones. CES would be a good time to build buzz for the device as Samsung executives told ETnews the smartphone is expected for Sprint and T-Mobile in the second quarter.
Sony Ericsson recently joined the Open Handset Alliance, and it could show off some smartphones. HTC and Garmin could also have some handsets, but Garmin is more than likely to focus on its oft-delayed Nuvifone.
For developers, the diversity in hardware potentially opens up a larger audience for content, but it also means content creators will have to spend more time with compatibility testing because not every Android handset will have the same features or input method. By contrast, Apple's mobile developers only have to write their applications once to reach the millions of iPhone owners.
"There's no question Android will be more challenging to develop for than the iPhone," Golvin said. "But the long-term promise of Android for developers is to ultimately have a less complex environment to reach a multiplicity of handsets."
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