Gphones cool but will catch on slowly, says ARM CEO

Google Inc.'s move into the market for smart phone operating software on Monday has hyped the idea of a "Gphone," but the new software may take a while to catch on, the head of mobile microprocessor developer ARM said Wednesday.

Smart phones can run software for e-mail, Web browsing, mapping and calendaring, typified by products running the Symbian, Palm or Windows Mobile operating systems, or more recently by Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

Google and its partners in the Open Handset Alliance announced a challenger to those offerings on Monday, with support for a Linux-based open software platform for mobile phones, called Android. Google is not announcing a phone running the software itself, but it hopes other manufacturers will launch phones using the code the group develops.

"The Google phone will obviously stimulate further growth in the smart phone market," said Warren East, CEO of ARM, in an interview in Taipei.

East is bullish about Android because Google has put its name, reputation and research efforts behind the project.

But building up a new mobile phone software platform can take years, especially in an industry where incumbents such as market leader Symbian have a lengthy head start.

"You're not going to see hundreds of millions of Google phones anytime soon," he said.

East should know. The microprocessor cores his company designs are found in around 95% of all smart phones, including Apple's iPhone. Gphones are expected to hit the market in the second half of next year, but by that time, most major phone makers will have new smart phone products available to compete against the devices, and many expect Apple to have updated its iPhone.

Devices that draw attention, like the iPhone and future Google phones, whatever they may be, create a lot of demand for smart phones, East said. Global smart phone shipments could reach 300 million next year after doubling this year to 200 million, he added, crediting this year's increase partly to the popularity of the iPhone.

The first iPhone had a lot of ARM technology inside, said East, including the ARM11 processor.

"I think it's inevitable if the iPhone continues to be as successful as it appears on launch that there will be iPhone IIs, iPhone IIIs, whatever. And if we do our job right, then they will be based on future ARM processors," East said.

Apple shipped 1.39 million iPhones from the launch through the end of its fourth quarter, Sept. 29, and saw sales spike after it reduced the price of the 8GB iPhone by $200, the company said last month. The company's target for next year is to sell 10 million iPhones.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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