Toward the end of 2008, Google's Android mobile operating system was flying high. Reports were coming in from all corners of the world that handset makers and phone carriers were busy planning prototypes of smartphones based on the OS.
Sprint warmed to Android while Motorola is reportedly planning to bow down to the Android altar, favoring Google's software over Microsoft Windows Mobile. Then came rumors in December that a T-Mobile G2, the follow-up to the first Android phone, the G1, would be hitting the market in January 2009 or perhaps April.
Along with the seminal G1, the G2 and the new Agora phones would have given the market four Android-based phones by the end of January, quadrupling choice for consumers.
Alas, it's not to be. Kogan founder Ruslan Kogan reports the sad news that his company is delaying the Agora phones indefinitely due to potential interoperability issues, including issues with screen size and resolution.
Kogan and his staff unfortunately miscalculated: Android developers are creating applications that run at a higher resolution than the Agora can handle. They are in the process of redesigning the smartphone to support fatter applications.
Customers who pre-ordered the Agora will receive a full refund within seven days. Kogan wrote today, Jan. 16:
"I am sorry for this delay, but in the interest of doing things right by the Kogan brand promise, and you, the customers, I cannot disappoint you by supplying a product that I am aware will shortly have significant limitations."
How close was the Agora to hitting the market? Kogan noted manufacturing had commenced and the phone was a matter of days from being shipped to customers. This would have been an unmitigated disaster.
Why? Well, the resolution issue is a legitimate concern for nonstandard computing devices. I bought my daughter an HP Mini netbook only to find that we couldn't access Webkinz because the screen resolution was too small to handle the application.
I was annoyed at having to return the machine (and get a netbook from Dell), so I know the bullet Kogan dodged in halting the Agora rollout. I can hear the screams of users trying to play their favorite game on the Android Agora, only to be stymied by a stalled application.
That would have been rough for Google, too, which would have had to answer questions about why Android doesn't play nice with others. Still, Kogan's postponement of the Agora is bad news for Android and Google, which have been making progress in the road map: Android plans to begin supporting paid applications soon.
As we've been told time and time again by Google, one of the key tenets of Android is to provide customers with more choice. Look how far that's gotten Nokia with Symbian, Microsoft with Windows Mobile, RIM with BlackBerry. But Android stands poised to bring more Linux choices beyond what LiMo can offer.
Without choice, Android has no chance of rivaling the success of Apple's iPhone, let alone challenging Nokia, RIM or Microsoft.
I don't know enough of the particulars to quantify the investment Google has made in Android, but it would be a shame if it goes for naught because of such issues, don't you think?
Read more coverage of the Agora delay on TechMeme here.