Android's Barcelona Coming Out Party

Nexus One

The Mobile World Congress this week may have set the stage for Microsoft's mobile comeback with Windows Phone 7, but it was Android's coming out party. Handset manufacturers including Dell, HTC, Samsung and Motorola announced launching a slew of new devices using Google's mobile operating system.

And in his keynote address at the conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said 60,000 Android phones now ship every day, including its own Nexus One. That comes out to 5.4 million a quarter or nearly 22 million units shipped over a year. Compare that with Apple, which shipped 25.1 million iPhones in the four past quarters, according to paidContent.

If Android maintains, or as it appears, ramps up its expansion, it propels Google into a powerful position in the smartphone market, on the heels of Apple in terms of share. It also has big implications for mobile advertising as the two tech heavyweights vie to gain the upper hand in the nascent mobile ad market.

Android's share of ad requests on U.S. smartphones in 2009 jumped from 4% to 27%, according to mobile ad network AdMob. Based on the projected growth of the Google platform, that share is sure to continue its upward trajectory in 2010.

Apple was a no-show at the MWC in Barcelona, but Google's push hasn't gone unnoticed by the wireless carriers, who fear the search giant and other Internet companies will reduce them to little more than mobile billing services. Verizon Wireless' deal with Skype, to allow free or low-cost calls on Verizon smartphones, reflects the carrier's effort to blunt the impact of services like Google Voice.

To the extent Google has partnered with manufacturers and carriers to date in relation to Apple, it's fast becoming the "frienemy" in the mobile world that it has been in relation to Madison Avenue. That is, Google is a company the operators know they have to work with, but want to contain in the mobile realm so it doesn't wind up as dominant in advertising as it is on the wired Web.

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