While today's launch of T-Mobile's dream is significant, it is only the first handset to come out of the Open Handset Alliance mould and although it gives a good idea of what Android can do, it barely scratches the surface of its possibilities.
The iPhone, as it stands, is just a phone, probably the best right now but that should change quicker than you can and here's 10 good reasons why we think Android, as a platform, will displace Apple's iPhone by the end of 2009.
(a) Telecoms Secretly Dislike Apple
Apple has played hard balls with telecoms giants ever since the iPhone was released. Its stubbornness (some will say arrogance) is what potential Chinese customers to miss out on the iPhone v1.0 (see iPhone talks crash and burn in China).
Google on the contrary will almost certainly sweeten the pill with the five/six major telecom companies worldwide by offering a slice of the overall advertising revenues, through a potential Adsense solution for telecom companies.
This could add to several hundred of millions of pounds of fresh revenue per annum and it will offer a new path for unexplored markets with huge mobile phone audiences (Brazil, China, India, Nigeria etc). The other bonus cookies is that Android will make mobile Internet almost compulsory bringing in some more revenues.
(b) Google to have more marketing clout
Like Microsoft with Windows, Google will almost certainly depend on phone manufacturers and mobile phone networks to evangelise the Android platform. This will not only give Google a headstart compared to Apple (as they almost certainly stand to get more from Google) but it also means that Google will be able to dedicate more financial and human resources to developing applications and improving the backend.
(c) Android will have more Hardware Variety
Although Android is currently marketed as a Handset solution, nothing will/should prevent Google (and its partners) from thinking outside the box and planning for other non-handset devices. Just like Linux and Windows CE, Android has the opportunity to spread its wings across areas as varied as Set top Boxes, Game Consoles, Embedded computers, Netbooks, computers...
You name it, Android can cover it. As for Apple... Well, the iPhone is a phone and it can't spill on other hardware segments. Apple has a tricky time trying to convince people to choose the iPod touch when the iPhone offers so much more.
(d) There will be an Android Priced for Everyone
Related to the above. Because Google gives manufacturers freedom to design, one can expect Android to appear on cheap and expensive smartphones to cater for all budgets. Google will not charge a penny for the license and will allow extreme customisations as well.
The Dream G1 is already rumoured to cost only around GBP 110 and, just like the Symbian S60 operating system, one can expect Android phones to be offered on contracts across the board. As for the iPhone, well, unless Apple makes a major concession on price - which is highly unlikely - its phone will still remain an object of lust.
(e) Developers, Developers, Developers
There are several reasons why developers will love Android. Firstly, Google allows industry players to add proprietary functionality to their products without having to contribute anything back to the platform since Android uses Apache license - which doesn't have a copyleft clause - rather than GPL. Google has also pledged to build a marketplace for developer based on Apple's model.
Unlike the Apps store though, this one will be an open content distribution system and will give all the revenues to the developers. In contrast Apple keeps 30 percent of all revenues for itself.
Google is also planning on using community based moderation to weed out suspicious/dodgy software rather than Apple often controversial judgemental system. It has removed Podcaster from the App store without any reasons.
(f) Android Thrives On Open-ness
Google has been criticised because it was not as forthcoming as one could expect with the developer community during the development phase of the Android platform. Android SDKs are partly proprietary and closed source. But that's way better than the rest of the mainstream mobile phone platforms (with the exception of OpenMoko or LiMo).
iPhone's platform is off limits and Microsoft allows very limited interaction with its platform. At least one can reverse engineer Android. As for the hardware side, well, expect Google to be as open as it can be, without any real restrictions on what manufacturers can do.
Android also uses Davlik, a Java layer brought in by Google to improve compatibility which makes it hardware agnostic and opens a wide range of possibilities (see Will Google's Android Run On Apple's iPhone?)
(g) Apple has agenda/set dates
Apple generally releases iPhone every year; the iPhone v1 was launched in June 2007 and the 3G version was released in July this year. Obviously, Apple has to keep significant gaps between releases to plan ahead for further product launches.
Google on the other hand does not have a set agenda and this means that you can expect to see cutting edge technology in Android based phones much faster. Product launches will happen much more frequently than on the iPhone and the competitive landscape of the mobile market means that manufacturers will trim down the "time to market" of new technologies to a minimum.
(h) Android is Build for the net
Because Google is behind Android, you can expect the platform to have internet access at its core and while Apple pushes the iPhone as a "Jack of all trade" that does phoning on the side (see its official advert), Google partners will flog their Android smartphones as the mobile internet devices. Make no mistake, the fact that the HTC Dream G1 smartphone has a keyboard and a touch screen clearly points in that direction.
(i) No reliance on related product segments
Apple has to care about the iPhone not killing the iPod touch altogether and has to make sure that iTunes is properly tied in; plus there's the Mac Book and the rest of the iPod range. Google does not have any hardware products to care about (except perhaps Google Mini but that's a different ballpark). Whether Android ends up in a phone, laptop, desktop, media server, a MP3 player or as a platform for a multimedia marketplace, Google shouldn't really care as long as the devices have access to the internet and Google's products/ads are displayed/sold.
(j) Deeper integration
Although Google will provide developers with full freedom with regards to Android development, it will also present manufacturers with a template, a foundation that uses off the shelf, easily available, widely acceptable products. GTalk, Gmail, Youtube, Google Apps, Google Gears and Android are some of the products that Google is set to offer on Android from the onset. gOS provides with a good indication of what a fully fledged, mature Android platform might look like.
As to the Christmas 2009 deadline, we reckon that it is the optimum amount of time (13 months) before Android really spread its wings. Unless Apple decides otherwise, we will be greeted with one more iPhone v3 with marginal improvements on v2 while Google will hopefully have more than one hundred products based on Android.
Read our complete coverage of Google's Android ever since it was announced, here.