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Android Phones Delayed to Fourth Quarter?

When Google unveiled its Android mobile phone platform in November of 2007, it said Android-based handsets should start hitting the marketing in the second half of 2008—with optimistic projections making the first devices available mid-year. That deadline is fast upon us, and there’s no sign of Android-based handsets on the horizon. Today, The Wall Street Journal is reporting (subscription required) reports that Google now says Android-based phones won’t reach consumers until the fourth quarter of 2008—and reports from handset makers and phone developers working with Android say it may be a stretch to meet even that date.

According to reports, T-Mobile plans to bring Android-based phones to market during the fourth quarter of the year, but other major carriers building on the Android platform—including Sprint and China Mobile—are also facing delays, and may not offer Android handsets until late 2008 or early 2009.

Unlike proprietary handset operating systems—like Windows Mobile or Apple’s Mac OS X Mobile—Android is an open source system based on Linux and Sun Microsystems’ Java language. Android includes an operating system, a user interface toolkit, and applications, but developers have had difficulty building support for their own custom applications and services on Android as Google continues to refine the technology. in the meantime, many phone developers have invested energy in Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry platform because they’re already on the market, and the development tools are more mature.

Initial Android-based phones are expected to be high-end models with exclusive features, but Google hopes Android devices will eventually be available at a variety of price points.

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