Android is not delayed. But who cares if it is?

Google spent much of Monday doing damage control after The Wall Street Journal reported that handsets based on its fledgling Android mobile OS won't arrive until the fourth quarter. According to the Journal, T-Mobile USA's projected Q4 Android launch is sponging up so much of Google's attention and resources that Sprint Nextel will be forced to scuttle its own year-end Android debut--meanwhile, China Mobile's planned Q3 Android launch has hit snags that could force a delay until early 2009. It's worth keeping in mind, however, that Google has always maintained Android devices would not reach the market until the second half of 2008, so assuming T-Mobile hits its target, the OS would seem to remain on track. Google wasted no time releasing an email statement refuting the Journal report, reiterating that Android is still on schedule and that momentum continues to build.

If anything, the Wall Street Journal article buried the lead--the story here isn't the Android release timetable, but the reputed developmental challenges hampering support for the OS. "Some handset makers are taking longer than they thought to integrate Android, test it and build custom user interfaces to meet carrier specifications," the feature notes, although it points out that Sprint's issues have much to do with recent management changes inside the operator. China Mobile's problems are more telling: The carrier is finding it difficult to merge its own branded data services into the Android platform. So if that's the case, isn't it more sensible that Google ignore dates circled on a calendar and instead worry about getting Android right? After all, Google's web search dominance wasn't predicated on doing on it first, but doing it better--and don't forget, this isn't about selling handsets, it's about making money off the mobile web. In the long run, there's little difference between a late 2008 release and an early 2009 debut: It's building a better mousetrap that makes you a big cheese. -Jason