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Android lays low at Mobile World Congress

Google's leader for Android says that the OS didn't miss a trick at the mobile industry's conference in Barcelona, and that it's right on track for where the company wants it to be.

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona could have been an opportunity for Android to show progress, but Google's open-source operating system made only a limited showing.

Google has high hopes for Android, which the company launched in an effort to spur smartphone development, mobile use of the web, and new search advertising. Google's clout makes the effort a serious challenge to other operating systems, but its potential hasn't resulted in much real-world presence so far.

Rich Miner, leader of the Android effort at Google, wasn't worried about the lack of Android phones at the mobile industry show.

"We think we are very much on track. We only released the open-source code late last October," Miner said in an interview with CNET News. "We said we'd have the release software out in 2008, and we did. We said we'd have at least one phone out in 2008, and we launched that in October."

Designing phones takes time, he added. "If you understand anything about the design cycle for OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to build handsets, it takes a good 12-to-18 months to go from paper to completion. And there are many handsets in development now. The second phone has been announced, and we expect to see more throughout the year," Miner said.

The biggest Android news from Mobile World Congress this week was the debut of the HTC Magic. This new model is the second Android phone from the Taiwanese company; the first, HTC's Dream, is better known as the T-Mobile G1.

The Magic has a touchscreen keyboard, like the Apple iPhone and unlike the Dream, which has a physical Qwerty keyboard. Vodafone will offer the Magic Android phone as the exclusive supplier in the UK, Spain, Germany and France, and as a non-exclusive supplier in Italy.

In addition, Huawei Technologies showed a mock-up of an iPhone-like Android model. Although that device wasn't running any software, Edward Chen, leader of Huawei's device business unit, said the company expected to start selling the handset in the third quarter of 2009.

Beyond that, there was little to been seen of Google's OS at Mobile World Congress, even though Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Garmin all have committed to releasing Android devices this year. Samsung decided against showing off its Android phone.

Android appears in higher-specification smartphones right now, and Miner promised that it would move into more mainstream phones next year.

"The vision, long-term, is to take this downmarket, but this is the first version and we wanted it to be best-in-class and to come out with a bang. In terms of going downmarket, we'll probably start to see lower-end smartphones and higher-end feature phones using it in 2010," Miner said. "The key thing to remember is that this release is 1.0 of the software. We're very happy with the first and second phones that have come out."

CNET News staff writer Maggie Reardon contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on CNET News.