T-Mobile G1 arrives. Not quite a Google vs. Apple battle

Let the smartphone wrestling match begin.In this corner - wearing a touch screen, offering an App store and sporting an Apple logo - is the iPhone.

Let the smartphone wrestling match begin.

In this corner - wearing a touch screen, offering an App store and sporting an Apple logo - is the iPhone. In the other corner - weighing in a little heavier, carrying a couple of extra buttons and backed by the brain power of Google, is the T-Mobile G1. And finally, standing outside the ring, hoping that a sleek design and a new App storefront will land it back in the ring, is the Blackberry maker itself, Research in Motion.

The G1, the first mobile device to run Google's Android mobile operating system, hit stores this morning, just one day after Apple announced that the iPhone has surpassed its 10-million-iPhones-by-year's-end milestone and that it had sold more phones that RIM in the last quarter. The early reviews of the G1 are mostly positive - though I've come across some rumblings about the buttons and the bulkiness of it, in comparison to the iPhone. Still, the user experience - where Google's search functionality and ties to applications such as Google Docs are everywhere - has been mostly well-received.

But wait, what's this? Google is stepping out of the ring. The search giant doesn't want to fight this fight of proprietary hardware and proprietary software. No, no. That's too much trouble. Instead, Google is giving away - yes, for free, and to anyone who wants it - the Android mobile operating system source code. This isn't just the software developers kit, this is the whole code, from beginning to end.

You see, Google isn't in the business of making mobile devices. It's in the business of selling online advertising (oh yeah, and online search). And seeing as how the computing world is shifting toward mobile devices (notice I didn't call it a phone), why not build the brains that will take Google's applications - search, mail, maps and so on - to a new level of usage in the mobile environment.

Let the other guys - the phone manufacturers and the service providers - worry about all of the other details: design, manufacturing, service contracts, marketing and so on. That doesn't play into Google's strengths. Placing ads in front of millions of eyeballs is what Google does best.

So what if Google isn't stepping into the ring to go head-to-head with the likes of Apple or RIM? Instead, it's taking lessons from Microsoft's Windows Mobile strategy to a new level. Build the brain power but let others massage it, morph it and put some muscle behind it. Then, this new army of Google-powered phones can jump into the ring and gang up on the likes of Apple and RIM.

Where does that leave Google in this smartphone wrestling match? Why, standing at the ticket booth, of course, collecting all the money and taking it straight to the bank.

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