Google phone to hit UAE stores next year

A mobile phone running on Google's open source Android operating system will be released in the UAE next year.

** FILE ** In this Sept. 23, 2008 file photo, the T-Mobile G1 Android-powered phone, the first cell phone with the operating system designed by Google Inc., is shown  in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file) *** Local Caption ***  NYBZ116_Tech_Test_Google_Phone.jpg
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A mobile phone running on Google's open source Android operating system will be released in the UAE next year. The first Android-powered phone was released in the US market last month, in a partnership between network operator T-Mobile and handset maker HTC. It will be released in the UK at the end of this month, and across Europe in early 2009. At today's second day of Gitex technology fair in Dubai, HTC's general manager for the Middle East and Africa said a device running the free, open operating system would make its way to the region in the coming year.

"I cannot say the precise schedule, but definitely in 2009 we will launch an Android phone in the Middle East," said Kevin Chen. "Windows Mobile is still a key partner for us. We work very closely with Microsoft, but we believe Android can create a second kind of device and increase our market share." As an open source system, phones running on Android can be extensively modified and updated with new software from third-party developers. The world's most popular smart phone operating system, Symbian, will also soon become an open source system, with its main stakeholder, Finland's Nokia, passing ownership of the system over to a not-for-profit foundation.

With both Android and Symbian given away for free, and Apple's iPhone system available only on the company's own devices, Microsoft is now the only major company selling a commercial mobile operating system. Its Windows Mobile system holds approximately 13 per cent of the smart phone market. Android was developed by engineers at Google in partnership with the Open Handset Alliance, a group of companies with a shared interest in seeing open standards emerge in the mobile industry. HTC was a founding member of the alliance.

Taiwan's HTC started life as a contract designer and manufacturer of mobile phones that would be rebranded by network operators and resellers, such as the Dubai-based i-mate. But since 2006, the company has sold an increasing amount of its devices under its own brand name, ceasing its relationship with i-mate and other networks. The company now sells 95 per cent of its devices under its own name.

Globally, HTC holds approximately 7 per cent of the market for smart phones, mobile devices that run operating systems capable of applications like web browsing and media playing. In the Middle East and Africa, the market share is slightly smaller, but growing fast, Mr Chen said, estimating the company's regional smart phone market share at about 4 per cent.