Google's Android OHA Enlists Vodafone, Sony Ericsson to Battle Nokia, Symbian

The Google-backed Open Handset Alliance adds Vodafone and Sony Ericsson, along with 12 others, to boost the Google Android mobile and wireless operating system. The move points to the momentum Android is gaining with the T-Mobile G1 and promises of future phones in 2009 from Sprint, Motorola and others.

The Open Handset Alliance, a group committed to creating and promoting smartphones and devices based on Google's open-source Android mobile operating system, now has 47 members with the addition of 14 new member companies Dec. 9.

Vodafone and Sony Ericsson lead the roster of new members, joined by AKM Semiconductor, ARM, ASUSTek Computer, Atheros Communications, Borqs, Ericsson, Garmin International, Huawei Technologies, Omron Software, Softbank Mobile, Teleca AB and Toshiba.

OHA said in a statement that new members will make Android devices, contribute significant code to the Android Open Source Project or support the Android ecosystem with products and services that will accelerate the availability of Android-based devices.

This isn't any different from when the OHA launched in November 2007 to support Android, which has so far made its way onto one official vendor smartphone, the T-Mobile G1. Google's Android group unveiled a SIM-unlocked gadget last week.

As AllThingsDigital's John Paczkowski noted, that's 47 phone makers and carriers, chip makers, and other various and sundry technology companies for one official device.

No matter, analysts say. The new OHA members, led by telco carrier luminaries Vodafone and Sony Ericsson, show potential. Greg Sterling, of Sterling Market Intelligence, told eWEEK the added OHA support is about "momentum and anticipated phones."

Sterling pointed to the coming Kogan Agora and Agora Pro Android smartphones, which Kogan Technologies will unleash in January. Motorola has also made a big commitment to the Android platform, and AT&T previously said that it will have an Android phone out in 2009, he said.

Bloomberg and GigaOm said Sprint, having seen the progress of T-Mobile's G1, will work with chip companies and handset makers to develop a Sprint device based on Android for 2009.

Sprint has 50.5 million customers, making it the biggest U.S. carrier to adopt Android even as market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless decline to support Google.

Ovum Research's Adam Leach said the move signals greater confidence in the OHA and the Android platform within the mobile industry.

Noting that applications created for Apple's iPhone are beginning to drive revenues for mobile network operators and developers, Leach said strong sales of the G1 indicate Google and the OHA have a growing developer community for Android.

New OHA members will only fuel this growth, leading to a greater number of Android devices in the market next year, Leach wrote in a Dec. 10 research note. Leach is so bullish that he believes Google could eventually challenge Nokia and its Symbian Foundation.

"Google and its OHA partners have the opportunity to build a critical mass of supporting handsets during 2009," Leach said. "This will be the real litmus test for Google. If it achieves this momentum in the handset market in 2009, then it has the potential to challenge Nokia and the Symbian Foundation for dominance in the handset software market."

BusinessWeek's Olga Kharif nicely sums up Android's bolstered position versus Nokia and Microsoft Windows Mobile as a result of the new OHA members.