MWC Preview: Handset makers gearing up for Android invasion

Despite the cloud of economic gloom and grim fourth-quarter numbers, Mobile World Congress has always been a place to flaunt flagship devices, and this year is shaping up to be no exception. Much of the buzz around handsets going into the show can be summed up in one word: Android. There is currently only one phone in North America that runs on Google's open-source operating system: the T-Mobile G1. That will change by the end of the show.

"We're expecting Windows Mobile 6.5 announcements. But really it's going to be Android's event," said John Jackson, vice president of research for CCS Insight. "Everyone else is going to be just working there."    

Samsung and HTC are expected to launch Android-based devices, and Samsung will probably have the phone in the market in the second half of 2009, perhaps in the third quarter. Although LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have committed themselves to producing Android-based phones, they probably will not be demonstrating fully-fledged models, analysts said, because it's simply too early in the process. However, the foundation has been laid for a slew of Android phones to make their way on the market in 2009. 

One very interesting facet to show is the entrance into the handset realm of non-traditional players, such as Huawei, which will be debuting an Android-based phone, and computer maker Acer, which will be launching some kind of smartphone, probably based on Windows Mobile. Dell might also be debuting a smartphone at the show. "There's a certain amount of chin music for the Tier 1 [vendors]," Jackson said. "It's the proverbial shot across the bow."

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