Will the first Google cell phone be a Dell phone?


A Google blog entry last week announced the web services giant is still updating and refining its Android SDK, in turn pushing the deadline for the first Android Developers Challenge to April 14. But otherwise, the fledgling OS is still surfing a wave of hype. According to RegDeveloper, which attended a recent Android mobile developer workshop in London, Google is promising "a complete and modern embedded OS, with a cutting-edge mobile user experience, a world-class software stack for building apps and an open platform for developers, users and industry." Beyond the self-promotion, Google also offered new insight into Android's makeup, most notably a runtime dubbed Dalvik, which RegDeveloper describes as "a custom virtual machine designed to be a better embedded OS." So far, all Android development is in Dalvik, and while developers may write in Java, all class files are converted to Dalvik's .dex byte-based code files, enabling processes to share system classes and in turn saving memory…but also calling into question just how open Android truly is.

Also of note: Google suggests a minimum specification of a 200MHz ARM9, with 64Mb RAM and 64Mb Flash. The company seems especially bullish on the speed of its software 3D rendering, but anticipates that Android handsets will ship with hardware acceleration. A majority will boast 320x240 display screen resolution. RegDeveloper forecasts a device comparable in scope and price to Nokia's N95, which means no one is going to get rich on Android-based devices anytime soon, least of all developers. Google maintains the first Android devices will ship in the second half of 2008...perhaps we'll hear something definitive at next week's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

Or we could turn to the rumor mill, which is abuzz with speculation that Google is partnering with computing firm Dell to launch an Android-based phone. According to MarketingWeek, senior industry sources claim the two companies will formally disclose their plans next week at MWC, although Google insiders deny an announcement is imminent. If the rumor appears far-fetched, consider a December 2007 Forbes profile spotlighting Michael Dell and his second go-round as CEO of the technology firm bearing his name--the article speculates that Dell is hard at work on a smartphone, developing the device in collaboration with Taiwanese hardware maker Quanta Computer. Android or otherwise, it seems clear Dell is making major moves into mobile: A year ago, it hired Ron Garriques, executive VP of Motorola's handset division, to run its entire consumer business, and last summer it acquired ZING Systems, a consumer technology and services company emphasizing always-connected audio and entertainment devices. Will the first mass-market Android handset arrive with a Dell logo? The week ahead promises to reveal all. See you in Barcelona. -Jason