As we noted this morning, Google’s (GOOG) Android mobile operating system will take a bit longer to roll out than many expected: Instead of several phones coming out in time for this year’s holiday shopping season, it looks like there will just be one, from T-Mobile.
As Vasanth Sridharan pointed out, this is bad news for carriers like Sprint Nextel (S), which will need to figure out a different strategy to compete with Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone this winter. But it’s no big deal for Google, despite concerns from the likes of TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld, who writes:
By the time Android phones seriously hit the market next year, there will be more than 10 million iPhones and many more Blackberries and other smart phones to contend with. Android holds a lot of promise and is generating a lot of excitement among developers, who are already creating interesting mobile apps for the platform. But without phones in consumer’s hands, it won’t matter how cool Android is.
Getting Android right is immensely important to Google, which faces a huge platform shift as the mobile Web finally starts to take off. It needs to parlay its leading position on the Web today into a leading position on the mobile Web. And it cannot do that alone.
The problem with Schonfeld’s analysis: It’s too short-sighted.
Even if Google totally bombs this holiday shopping season, it doesn’t matter. The worldwide smartphone market could approach 275 million phones next year; 10 million iPhones is hardly a significant disruption.
And if Google’s going to get a “leading position on the mobile Web,” that’s going to have a lot less to do with Android — a brand-new, niche mobile operating system for smartphones — and more to do with its mobile Web sites, ads on those sites, and other apps — all of which can be used by anyone, with any phone on any carrier.
We don’t doubt that Android’s carrier-related delays are an annoyance for Google’s engineering team. But a few months’ delay won’t break Android — and won’t come close to affecting Google’s long-term ability to make a market in mobile advertising.