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More delays from handset makers in rolling out products that will run Google's Android mobile operating platform are decreasing the chances that it will capture a meaningful share of the mobile software market.
That's because the longer it takes to get Android-equipped phones into the hands of consumers, the more momentum Apple's iPhone will have as an alternative development platform.
The WSJ report that T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel and ChinaMobile won't have any Android handsets ready until the fourth quarter -- at the earliest -- comes after Google and its partners said in late 2007 that the first phones would be ready in the second half of this year.
Now, it looks like Android developers will have to wait even longer to see any licensing fees or other returns on their development efforts. That could prompt more of them to focus on making software for the iPhone instead.
Apple has already released its iPhone software developers kit, and CEO Steve Jobs showed off a number of nifty applications during the company's unveiling of the newest version two weeks ago.
When Android was announced, most pessimists said it would face an uphill battle finding a place in a market already crowded with rival platforms, including Windows Mobile and Symbian, used by No. 1 handset maker Nokia and other market leaders.
With the iPhone selling fast, the rise of Apple as a mobile-phone development platform presents yet another challenge to Google's efforts.
Handset makers have been willing to make room for Android because if it leads to a proliferation of popular applications, it will give them an opportunity to sell more-profitable data services.
Mobile operators in developing countries, which are especially fond of open platforms and leery of a Microsoft or a Nokia-backed offering becoming dominant, would like to see Android get some traction.
Until Google can deliver it to them, however, the newest alternative remains the iPhone.
With Apple set to release a new, low-cost version next month and any meaningful number of Android devices still a ways off, Google's challenge to push the device into the market will only get harder.
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