Google's $10M, no, $100M Android Challenge

So does Google have anything up its sleeve, when it comes to the Android mobile communications platform?It better have.

So does Google have anything up its sleeve, when it comes to the Android mobile communications platform?

It better have. Because expectations keep getting lowered. And Apple keeps raising the ante, at least in getting attention for new mobile applications.

According to a dispatch Thursday Google “will probably announce the finalists for its Android developer contest sometime in late July or early August.”

It was supposed to be July 21. But bet on the results of this second round of the challenge being August 5, based on the note posted in Googling Google on … July 19.

But a few more days is not going to grab the hype cycle back from Apple, which launched its iPhone App Store two weeks ago. That store now has, in the market, more than 500 apps that are pushing the envelope in what a mobile phone can do and doing it mostly to applause (once the phone is running on a network and when not running out of juice).

Meanwhile, Google’s $10 million Android developer challenge has anointed 50 apps as worthy of being promoted for the new set of open source phones it hopes to spawn.

But where are the phones?

Sergey and Larry get to walk around with one, purportedly. But no manufacturer has put one out there.

T-Mobile may – may -- get one out this year, but Sprint Nextel, China Mobile and other makers are looking at 2009 launches.

The biggest U.S. carriers, AT&T and Verizon, seem in no rush to get behind the Android alliance. AT&T is doing just fine right now with the iPhone. And Ivan Seidenberg at Verizon says even the iPhone is not a big deal.

The challenge here is for someone to make an Android-based phone that has better hardware guts than the iPhone or better pieces to swap in and out so that developers can produce better apps than iPhone apps.

But so far, the developers are working with a developer’s kit. Not real phones, ready to bring to market.

That’s got to change, before anyone gets excited about any of the Android apps announced on August 5.

Or Google’s hopes to best Apple (or anybody else) in spawning cool or useful mobile communications.

Maybe Google needs to launch a $100 million challenge … to hardware developers, to get them excited.