Android's absence: where was the platform at Mobile World Congress?

Coming in to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the brief was clear: this was going to be Android's show. However, with the exception of Vodafone's announcement that it would launch HTC's second phone based on Google's Android platform, the Magic, there was very little Android news at the wireless industry's largest trade show.

Huawei kept their Android phone, which looked very iPhone-esque, behind a glass case. LG said it would produce Android phones in 2009, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion considering that all of the other major handset vendors have committed to doing so as well. Omar Khan, Samsung's senior vice president of strategy, told me that the company's decision to announce that it would not launch an Android phone until the second half of 2009 was wrongly construed as a delay, and that the hype on the Internet built up the expectation that Samsung would bring an Android phone to Barcelona, even though it had no intention of doing so. Khan added that Samsung's plan for Android is still on track.  

Maybe it was all too much hype. Maybe the handset makers are still working out the details with their carrier partners and will wait until just before the commercial launch to announce. Still, it seemed like quite the letdown. While Microsoft confirmed the launch of Windows Mobile 6.5, Android still seems to be the OS that will dominate the rest of the year, with a wide range of OEM's porting the open-source platform to their handsets. Similarly, other players in the space, especially Broadcom, are keen to launch their solutions for the operating system later this year.

So, the question must be asked as Mobile World Congress comes to a close: If not now, when? I suppose the vendors want to do this on their own schedules and in partnership with the operators, but the Barcelona show seemed like the ideal venue for handset makers to generate more buzz and explain how their Android offering would be differentiated. It appears the world will have to wait.

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of FierceWireless' photos from the show. Adios. --Phil