By Mike Caggeso
Techies around the world will finally get a peek at Google Inc.'s (GOOG) long-anticipated Android mobile phone platform at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source at the company.
The Internet search giant's highly anticipated wireless phone platform will be demonstrated by British chip designer ARM Holdings PLC (ARMHY) at the world's biggest wireless fair.
The Android platform is a software stack for mobile devices, including an operating system and applications. It allows developers to write, edit and debug applications.
Reuters also reported that Google plans to "deploy phones and services using the Android platform commercially in the second half of this year."
Judging by the number of tech blogs exploding with delight, criticism and curiosity, the release of Google's phone will no doubt create a buzz equal to or greater than the hype leading up to "iDay" - June 29, 2007 - the day Apple Inc. (AAPL) launched its now-white-hot iPhone.
Despite all the chatter from the tech world, Google has remained mum about its wireless-communications aspirations. However, the company has been racking up a portfolio of patents that show it is preparing to enter the mobile-phone market [as well as the video gaming and TV markets], InformationWeek reported, citing research from a global research-and-consulting company.
There's even been heavy speculation that Google would become a bidder for wireless spectrum licenses, either now or in the future. However, UBS AG (UBS) just last week that the Federal Communications Commission is holding to sell licenses for broadcasting spectrum once used by analog TV broadcasters.
Whatever Google's route, the fact that it's officially moving forward signals that there's a new entrant in the battle for cell-phone supremacy. Before Apple stuck its nose into the market last June, the main players were Nokia (NOK), Samsung Corp., and Motorola Inc. (MOT).
With a 40% market share, Nokia is still by far the sector leader. But with the sheer amount of cash, intellectual capital and marketing firepower that Google and Apple have in their arsenals, they will block out aspiring new entrants while also making it tougher than ever for the current players to remain competitive.
Consider Motorola. In recent weeks, Motorola effectively announced it was putting its handset unit up for sale - although analysts say it will be a tough sell to get someone to buy it outright. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company was once the industry leader, and was viewed as the most innovative handset manufacturer in the business.
Activist investor Carl Icahn took a 5% stake in Motorola Wednesday, according to a filing with the SEC. Icahn said he acquired Motorola shares in the belief that they were undervalued, MarketWatch reported. Icahn's affiliates own about 114.4 million Motorola shares, up from about 75.58 million shares, or a 3.3% stake, they held as of Sept. 30, according to the filing.
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