Vodafone looks to curb Google's presence in Android

Vodafone's enthusiastic support for Android has been a big credibility boost for the platform, but it was always going to come at a heavy cost for Google, in terms of the search giant's iron control of its supposedly open system.

Vodafone executives have confirmed they want to add other Android devices to their portfolio, to add to the new Magic, codeveloped with HTC. However, in an interview with TechRadar, Vodafone's head of testing Rachel Williams said that, while the Magic comes with Google applications tightly integrated, future models might not.

These could be more basic phones, geared to low cost markets and without significant numbers of apps preloaded. More significantly, they could come with the operator's own user interfaces, widgets and choice of preloaded software.

This would hit at the main downside of Android for the cellcos, which want to establish their own brands and user experience to maintain pole position in the mobile internet chain, rather than letting the open web players take the lead.

Vodafone, which had previously focused its Linux efforts mainly on the LiMO Foundation, joined Android's Open Handset Alliance in December. It may take a carrier with the power of Vodafone to cut Google down to size a little in its new playground, and the cellco made clear in December that it will not just be looking for exclusive devices, as T-Mobile got with the HTC G1 and Voda now has with Magic, but its own choice of homecreen applications and web services.

Vodafone is also looking to leverage its massive procurement power better and has appointed a new executive to lead its group portfolio management team and step up activities in new consumer and business device formats, and in Vodafone branded handsets, many to come from low cost partners such as ZTE. Vodafone has already begun centralizing more of its handset buying from Luxembourg in a bid to cut costs.

Also on the Android front, Acer said it was working on several different devices using the Linux-based OS, and will launch a smartphone later this year, but it has no near term plans for an Android netbook. CEO Gianfranco Lanci told an investor conference: "We are testing Android on a lot of different solutions ... I think it's too early to say if we're going to see Android on a netbook in the near future."

And the BoyGenius Report claims to have a first look at Motorola's first Android phone, codenamed Calgary. This appears to be a slider phone with a Qwerty keyboard that will launch later this year with Verizon.

The Android trailblazer, HTC of Taiwan, announced that its first quarter revenues fell 3.4% year-on-year to NT$31.6bn ($931.6m). Net income slumped from NT$6.9bn last year to NT$4.9bn ($143m). The company maintained its forecast of double-digit growth this year.

• Editor’s note:  Interesting to see that at  in the world’s top ten most valuable brands (according to BrandFinance’s annual report on the matter, which you can download from here http://www.brandfinance.com/) Vodafone (at 8)  is only three places behind Google (at 5),  and that Vodafone has moved up 3 places from last year, while Google has fallen 2.

Rethink Wireless

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