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Google, Palm, Microsoft offerings hot up smartphone race

Google, Microsoft and Palm stepped up efforts to bolster their smartphone line-ups, as the tech industry’s key players increasingly move to challenge Apple’s popular iPhone, reports Alexei Oreskovic.

business Updated: Oct 07, 2009 22:07 IST
Alexei Oreskovic

Google, Microsoft and Palm stepped up efforts to bolster their smartphone line-ups, as the tech industry’s key players increasingly move to challenge Apple’s popular iPhone.

In a flurry of announcements on Tuesday, the companies introduced new phones, wireless carrier partnerships and efforts to boost the availability of new applications for the phones.

The smartphone market has emerged a prime battleground for technology businesses, and one of the few markets that are growing in a rough economic environment.

“Everyone wants to build up and bolster their smartphone portfolio, because that’s what drives more dollars for the carrier and that’s where the market is going,” said Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton.

Google is teaming up with Verizon Wireless to co-develop multiple phones based on its Android operating system. They plan to bring two phones to market this year, and Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam predicted introduction of multiple devices per year going forward.

The partnership with Verizon caps a string of Android phone announcements, including Motorola’s recent introduction of the Cliq phone and HTC’s Hero phone, slated for US release next week.

Microsoft, whose software is used in the majority of the world’s PCs, on Tuesday unveiled a new version of its smartphone software, Windows Mobile 6.5, and promised more than 30 new devices with the software would be available in more than 20 countries this year.

Analysts say that Apple's iPhone, despite its modest share of the market, is the product to beat. “It may not be reflected in the numbers, but everyone is playing catch-up” with Apple, said C.L. King analyst Lawrence Harris.

Harris said that Apple is the clear leader when it comes to the software apps created by third-party developers to work with a smartphone. Apple has 85,000 apps available through its iPhone Apps store.

In a sign of how critical apps have become in the smartphone race, Microsoft also announced the launch of a new marketplace for Windows Mobile applications. And Palm announced it was making its “WebOS” smartphone software more open for outside developers to create applications.

Google said there are more than 10,000 free and paid apps available for Android smartphones.