By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
T-Mobile has stated that it will launch an Android phone in the second half of 2008, but Sprint is reticent to reveal its plans.
The Android platform presents "an exciting opportunity to launch robust wireless Internet and Web 2.0 services for T-Mobile customers in the U.S. and Europe in 2008," said René Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom. He and a T-Mobile USA spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
For its part, Sprint was even less forthcoming. A spokesman declined to say when it would launch an Android phone, or even if it would, saying only that "all we have done is join the alliance." Sprint hasn't created a business model yet for Android, he said, "but we think it's a really good direction." Sprint's next step is to "hammer out the details about how we will make it happen," he added.
Despite his reticence, the Sprint spokesman cited a number of plusses for Android and openness. The proliferation of applications that Android would unleash, he said, will enable consumers "to dictate what they want on a phone," and that will "utimately drive mobile data usage and increase our revenues," he said. Openness "is not a huge departure for us," he continued. Although subscribers can access Web sites and download applications listed on the deck of Sprint phones, he explained, subscribers can also "browse the Internet openly" to view Web sites and download Java applications. Sprint's planned WiMAX network, called Xohm, will be "completely open," he added.
It's entirely likely that Sprint will eventually bring an Android device to Xohm, just not first out of the gate," Strategy Analytics analyst Tom Elliott told TWICE. He believes Sprint's initial focus with the Xohm network "is very much on creating the mobile/portable Internet experience with more or less conventional ultra portable computers, laptop cards and so on."
Sprint will soft launch Xohm in two markets in December as planned and begin commercial service sometime in 2008, although on a schedule likely to be slower than previously announced because Sprint and Clearwire dropped plans to jointly build out a national network and market the service under a single brand name.
"Despite the obvious attraction of releasing something called 'The Xohm Android,' Sprint will launch it on the CDMA network first, more for business reasons than technology roadmap reasons," he said. "Given the current ugly mood of Sprint shareholders, there might be a lot more interest in beefing up the CDMA side of the business with some attention-getting products that have the Google aura about them."
Although Verizon Wireless isn't an OHA member, it hasn't ruled out joining, a spokesman said. Verizon, he said, "shares the goal of more open mobile application development," but he also said the carrier supports "innovation that is consistent with the values of integrity of service, privacy, security and reliability."
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