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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article was published with a figure of pre-ordered handsets that was incorrectly calculated. The author of this article intended for that number to be a figurative representation rather than an official pre-order figure. The article has been corrected, and The Motley Fool regrets the error.
Prepare for an epic showdown between two gnarly gunslingers when the first Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android phone hits the streets in a couple of weeks. T-Mobile (NYSE: DT ) , which nearly tripled its order of G1 Android phones from Taiwanese handset maker HTC because of “great anticipation and the heavy pre-sale demand,” has actually sold through all of its preorder units.
Although pre-orders for the G1 Android phone are only available to current T-Mobile subscribers, the stage has been set for a dazzling entry for this phone, which is clearly in high demand. No official word from Google or T-Mobile as to how this compares to the 10 million second-generation iPhones Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) originally hoped to sell this year -- Apple may already have reached that goal, according to the Silicon Valley rumor mill -- but it's a heck of a rush for an unproven software concept on never-before-seen hardware.
Google needs the G1 to be a hit. Given all the hype around the Android platform, a weak or disappointing first example could turn a lot of prospective buyers off entirely: "Oh, that's all? Gimme an iPhone!" That could be the end of the entire Android platform.
That's why Google has worked closely with the service and hardware suppliers here, to make sure that the first shot in this battle is a killer. The Android is armed to the teeth with touchscreen and sliding keyboard, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G networking, but the real difference-maker is an application marketplace that could open up the Pandora's box we call a smartphone. These gadgets are technically capable of much more than the few morsels that service providers like AT&T (NYSE: T ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) Wireless allow us to taste, and Google's open attitude to its developer community finally unleashes the full power of smartphones' potential.
I don't see Google going for Apple's throat here, but the search giant's commitment to this vision is real. The company paid out $10 million to the winners of an Android application development contest -- but won't take a dime out of the applications' sales. Instead, Google wins when more people use the Web.
If the Android platform kills the iPhone, that's great. Google wins. If Apple ends up killing the Android, it'll have to be with better software that takes full advantage of connectivity everywhere. Again, Google wins. The only way to lose is to release a total dud, so failure this month is not an option.