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Android Promoted As Adding Life To Wireless Competition

New York — Thirty-three companies, including cellular carriers T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel, announced the Google-led development of a standardized open-source mobile operating system promoted as encouraging software developers to build innovative applications and user interfaces that aren’t available today.

Applications running on the Linux-based platform, called Android, would enable consumers to choose their phone’s user interface, including choice of music players and contact lists, as well as download applications sold by companies other than carriers, Google said. In fact, Google will host a site from which third-party software developers can sell applications, which could be downloaded over the air directly to a cellphone or via to a consumer’s PC for side-loading to a cellphone.

The first phones based on the Android operating system will be available in the second half of 2008, with U.S carrier T-Mobile saying it will be among the carriers launching Android-based phones at that time. Sprint Nextel did not specify a launch date. Handset maker HTC said it would ship its first Android phone in the second half of 2008, but the other three handset makers did not initially specify a launch date for their brands.

Sprint, T-Mobile and HTC joined Google and handset makers LG, Motorola and Samsung as founding members of the Android-building Open Handset Alliance (OHA), whose other members include major overseas carriers and eBay, as well as chipmakers Qualcomm, Intel and Texas Instruments.

With Android, applications developers would be able to write a program that would operate on many brands of handsets and on many carrier networks without a rewrite for multiple phone platforms. That will bring “the Internet developer model to the mobile space,” the alliance said. Although the license-agreement terms don’t prohibit carriers from restricting the sale of downloadable applications to those available only through their own download stores, a Google spokesman called such a development “unlikely,” at least from the carriers who support Android’s creation.

“Through Android, developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers will be better positioned to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost,” the alliance said. Although platforms such as Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry operating systems enable third parties to develop applications running on multiple brands of phones, the alliance expects its OS to be more widely deployed because of what a Google spokesperson called “the most liberal open-source license in the mobile industry.” Android will run on phones with small and large screens as well as phones with and without QWERTY keyboards, not just on the smartphones and PDA phones that the Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS’s are built for, a spokesman added.