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"To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them."
-- From "Hamlet," by William Shakespeare, 1601
Verizon poured some $100 million into marketing the Motorola Droid, including a series of TV ads that take an antagonistic stance versus the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone and AT&T's (NYSE: T ) wireless network. The Droid became Verizon's "hero" device, the focus of its sales efforts, and Big Red's finest weapon against a sea of troubling rivals. But the just-announced HTC Droid Incredible takes Motorola's phone out behind the woodshed for a solid beating. Motorola's place at Verizon's right hand is in serious jeopardy.
The Droid Incredible is very close to a Verizon-capable version of the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Nexus One superphone with an 8-megabit digital camera, a large OLED touchscreen, a 1-GHz Snapdragon processor from QUALCOMM (Nasdaq: QCOM ) , and all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a newer smartphone. It's faster and more capable than the Motorola Droid, and Motorola's only advantage seems to be its physical keyboard … if you're into that sort of thing.
But Motorola will still be very good friends with Verizon for a while beyond the Droid Incredible launch. I don't think Verizon will put serious marketing muscle behind this model, because I don't believe that HTC can supply the network with millions and millions of these phones.
The bottleneck lies in the Droid Incredible's OLED screen. That component is a real selling point for this phone and others, but the technology is not yet ready for prime time. OLED technology from Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL ) and others is coming of age right about now, but screen manufacturers like Samsung Display still need to build out their manufacturing lines to keep up with growing demand. Besides, while a nice step forward, the HTC doesn't present nearly the incremental jump that the Droid provided over previous Verizon offerings.
If HTC can't easily order as many OLED screens as it wants, then Verizon can't push its marketing very hard. Nobody looks good when your best gadget is unavailable for weeks or months at a time, and Verizon is doing alright with Motorola's Droid anyway. I'm drooling uncontrollably over the Droid Incredible and might pick one up for myself, but just like the Nexus One I don't think this will be a big seller.
Can Motorola take to arms against this usurper by designing an even better Android phone? I haven't heard any rumors, but wouldn't be surprised. It's a great time to be alive if you love smartphones -- and their impact on the telecommunications market. If anybody wins big in this civil war in Android-land that's pushing rivals to create better products, it's Verizon.