Android 2.0: The iPhone killer at last?

Get past the hype: Here's the real deal on Android's chances to unseat the iPhone

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Worse, both Verizon and Motorola are tuning their app dev environments to support their specific markets (Verizon's network and Motorola's devices), which is likely to conflict with each other's goals, Google's goals, and developers' goals at some point. Apple is no less self-interested, but there's little confusion as to who's in charge. Android could become yet another failed partnership among selfish, oafish industry heavyweights.

Still, it's clear that Android is worth watching. We'll soon know if this time there's a credible "iPhone killer." Android 2.0 has the best chance of joining the BlackBerry and iPhone as a mobile device that will actually matter to users, IT, and developers in, say, 2012 -- but it's still just a chance.

All hail the consumer

It used to be that a smartphone was a business device, which due to its pioneering of handheld messaging and enterprise-class security features meant a BlackBerry. Now, consumers are driving smartphone sales, not businesses, a tipping of the scales in favor of the iPhone.

Until summer 2008, the iPhone was considered a consumer toy. But when a new iPhone OS added Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support, allowing the iPhone to connect to many organizations' e-mail systems, the iPhone quickly infiltrated business settings, putting IT under great pressure to relax security guidelines to give users the device they want not just for e-mail, but for Web access and apps usage.

Apple's reliance on a subset of ActiveSync capabilities, and several snafus in its implementation of ActiveSync, won't convince security-conscious IT to let the device in, but the iPhone outclasses the rest of the ActiveSync-based mobile contenders -- Palm's WebOS-based Pre, Nokia's Nx series, and soon Android 2.0 devices -- and is at least as capable in its ActiveSync support as they are. Microsoft's Windows Mobile supports more ActiveSync capabilities, but that OS has languished for years and no longer registers on most new-purchase surveys.

This "good enough for most" ActiveSync support, coupled with the device's high personal appeal, means that the iPhone will make big inroads into small and medium-size businesses. After all, these businesses trust ActiveSync for their PCs and home-based users, so why not for mobile access? (Plus, the BlackBerry's security advantage requires paying for and administering a specialty server, which is not a good fit for IT budgets these days.)

Large enterprises -- especially those governed by various compliance regulations, such as finance and health care -- will continue to resist the iPhone. Regardless, practically every mobile management vendor is adding iPhone support and BlackBerry-like security and management, which will make it easier to safely adopt the iPhone even in large enterprises by 2011.

This gives the iPhone a real shot at becoming the dominant smartphone in both consumer and business markets, at least in North America, over the next year. The BlackBerry is likely to maintain its lead due to its large-enterprise dominance, but its poor Web and apps capabilities mean that it can't bank on user passion to maintain that lead.

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