Friday, March 14, 2008

Google takes swipe at Apple's iPhone

Android-based phones will have a bigger market than the iPhone and appeal more to developers, a Google executive said

Google has taken a dig at Apple's iPhone, saying the device has a much smaller market than phones which run Android, the mobile phone operating system Google helped develop.

The search giant said that despite selling 4 million units within the first 7 months of its release, the iPhone was ultimately a more limited device than phones which ran on the Google-backed platform, because the potential for developers to build new applications using Android was greater.

Rich Miner, group manager for mobile platforms at Google, was quoted by IT Week as saying: "Once you have devices out there from Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and so on, there's a much larger potential market on Android than for the iPhone."

Mr Miner told a conference in Silicon Valley that whereas the iPhone had "a single manufacturer" and was "targeted at a particular demographic", developers could expect a much wider uptake of applications they developed for Android-based phones, the first of which are expected to be released later this year.

Mr Miner's remarks at the Emerging Communications Conference come as some of the technology industry's largest companies try to position themselves effectively as playgrounds for developers, releasing software which enables third parties to write programs for well-known products that can be downloaded and used by consumers.

Google, which is leading an initiative that promotes 'open' handsets, said earlier this year that the Android 'software development kit' (SDK) has been downloaded more than 750,000 times since it was made available in November.

Apple, meanwhile, said this week that a similar software kit which will enable developers to write applications for its iPhone, had been downloaded 100,000 times since it was released earlier this month. Nokia, the world's largest handset manufacturer, has also said it wants to third party developers to be able to write and release applications for its devices.

"It's great that people are finally building tools so all of these third-party applications can be built and get out there, (but) there are things I saw people doing with the first version of the Android SDK that it seems like you can't do with the iPhone - at least at the moment," Mr Miner said.

Google announced last year it was leading an initative called the Open Handset Alliance, which aims to promote 'open standards' in the mobile industry. At the heart of the project, backed by operators such as T-Mobile and the handset makers Motorola and HTC, is the Android operating system, which Google says will improve the experience of using the web on a mobile phone.

Apple responded this month by releasing its own software kit that will enable developers to write anything from games to financial applications for the iPhone. Owners will in turn be able to download and install the applications on their devices.

Apple's kit costs $99, and the company has said it will keep 30 per cent of the sale price of each application developers create, though many are expected to be free.

This week David Pogue, the influential technology critic of the New York Times, wrote of Apple's announcement: "I can’t tell you how huge this is going to be. There will be thousands of iPhone programs, covering every possible interest.You’re witnessing the birth of a third major computer platform: Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone."


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