Spain World Mobile Congress
Manu Fernandez  /  AP
A man demonstrates Google's Android software platform at the World Mobile Congress, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008.
By AP Business Writer
updated 2/12/2008 3:46:38 PM ET 2008-02-12T20:46:38

Google Inc.'s profile was relatively low as the World Mobile Congress opened, but chip makers eager to help develop the first phones using Google's Android operating system were not so quiet.

The prototypes Texas Instruments Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. demonstrated at the world's largest mobile conference that ends Thursday looked nothing like the sure-to-be sleek cell phones that eventually will debut the open-source operating system.

TI's prototype was a clunky black with its flagship OMAP3430 multimedia processor, for example. But an eager crowd pressed Tuesday to watch Ramesh Iyer show how users of Android-equipped smart phones will navigate the Web by running a finger over the display _ and how they'll find full-size pages, not a Web resized for mobile devices' small screens.

"The real beauty of Android is that it shortens by about one-third the time it takes to get a cell phone from concept to market," said Iyer, an ecosystems manager at Texas Instruments.

"That's because it contains all the essential building blocks you need for a mobile phone," he said. "TI put the Android applications on top of its processor inside of a week," he said.

Iyer estimates Android will cut the development of a smart phone, which combines web applications with traditional voice features and typically takes up to 18 months, to six or seven months.

"It makes the idea of developing and customizing software very easy," Iyer said, adding that "the chip is no longer the bottleneck."

Neither Google nor the chip makers would say when a smart phone running Android will hit the consumer market. The chip makers said that's up to Google.

Google didn't respond to requests for comments on the prototypes or Android. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company's representatives didn't staff a booth at the conference, instead cloistering themselves in convention suites with signs posted outside: "Meetings in Progress."

Google has lined up about 30 phone, chip and software companies to help develop Android systems.

Qualcomm's prototype was a series of circuit boards built around a display. Rob Woodford, in technical marketing at Qualcomm, also said application development is smooth and quick with Android. He pulled up a "Whack-a-Mole" game Qualcomm engineers developed in a couple hours.

"What Android is doing for Linux is consolidating a huge fragmented market. Google is the first who can pull together the fringe market and pull something out of it," said Qualcomm product manager Jason Bremner. "For us it is a great opportunity to get in on the ground level of a new ecosystem and create a new environment."

Just to be sure no one thought Qualcomm's commitment to other operating systems would wane, it demonstrated devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile system right next to the Android prototype.

"It is not like we are saying, 'Hey, we're picking Android over Microsoft,'" he said. "Our end goal is to enable all operating systems."

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