google-logo.jpgThe first batch of cellular phones armed with Google’s Android software was showcased at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last Monday. Qualcomm, Marvell, Texas Instruments, NEC, ARM and several others showcased their prototype handsets allowing network operators and cellular phone users to preview what is to come in the near future.

Search engine giant Google launched Android in 2007 as a free software system. The debut was Google’s foray into the cellular phone market. More than thirty companies (from chip makers to handset manufacturers), comprise the Open Handset Alliance, a coalition that works in tandem with Google in the development of the software. The alliance hopes that Android will become the standard operating system for cellular phones.
Android is Google’s first concrete step in revolutionizing the cellular phone experience. Based on Linux, Android is an open source platform which could be freely accessed by anyone.

This is a boon to programmers who, using the Android platform, could customize specific features and applications to any cellular phone. Implications for the new-age cellular phone are internet-bound; improved web browsing and quicker download speeds are some of the possible benefits. In short, a more mobile PC experience could be expected. Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for the technological research firm Gartner, explains, “It should have everything that we see on the PC, not just shrunk down to work on a mobile phone, but really being optimized for a mobile phone”.

Barry Schnitt, spokesperson for Google, explains that Android’s future commercial release could only bode well for the search engine giant, “There are few phones that provide a compelling web experience. As people use the web more, they’ll use Google more and we’ll be able to sell more relevant advertising.”

Despite the rosy outlook and the hopes pinned on Android, Google faces challenges from a formidable competitor, namely the Symbian system of Nokia and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform. The first Android-enabled cellular phones are expected to hit the shelves later this year.

BBC Technology News: Q&A: Google’s Android