An Android, far from the Android

Until Clearwire closes and is built out, in other words, the Android era has not yet begun, and the iPhone monopoly will continue.

Android logo, from CNET
T-Mobile will re-launch its HTC Dream as an Android phone next week, but it would be a big mistake to call this the Android.

It's not.

While Google has been taking special pains to make sure the new unit works, it is still just a phone running on a fourth-placed proprietary network.

The real Android vision is much bigger and deeper. It's a handheld Internet client running on a true broadband network.

That's what Sprint and Clearwire want to build, with Google's money. Meanwhile telephony remains a low-bandwidth application, but that's where the incumbent carriers are at, and Google needs to show some progress, thus next week's event.

The real news is the trouble over at Clearwire. The combination has hit the legal skids, with former Sprint re-sellers suing and the partners refusing to settle.

AT&T has also thrown a regulatory spanner into the works, seeking concessions for its continuing efforts to buy new spectrum, as opposed to actually delivering service.

One byproduct of this is that the iPhone maintains its monopoly as the only handheld Internet client on the market. Verizon has committed its broadband network to LiMo.

As a result the merger still hasn't closed, and the money on relay towers can only be spent when there is a legal structure to spend it on.

So we're left watching demos.  These are impressive, with speeds of up to 10 Mbps while downloading, and an average of 2-4 Mbps. That will be a game-changer, but the game is not yet afoot.

In theory this gives Google and handset makers more time to perfect the platform, but that's not the way this business works. You can deliver four generations of product in a year only if there is a network to run them on, and customer contracts to fund the handset makers.

Until Clearwire closes and is built out, in other words, the Android era has not yet begun, and the iPhone monopoly will continue.