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The first wave of robotic attackers is the somewhat unrefined but still impressive T-Mobile G1. That gadget alone will not unseat the reigning kings of the smartphone market, like Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone and Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) venerable BlackBerry line. But the incumbent rulers need to sleep with one eye open, because Big G is calling in reinforcements.
There's heavy speculation that Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) is working on an Android handset, and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) CEO Dan Hesse confirmed that the company plans to sell and support the platform someday soon. Further signs of reinforcement come from Australia, where there are rumblings about an Android phone from maverick electronics retailer Kogan Technologies, which looks more like a BlackBerry than an iPhone and ships worldwide in January -- unlocked and ready to work on pretty much any mobile network.
And here comes the heavy cavalry. Fourteen more technology leaders have joined the Open Handset Alliance, which is the gang that keeps Android development organized. Among the heaviest of the new hitters, you'll find phone designers like Toshiba and Sony Ericsson, general mobile gadget expert Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN ) , and multinational service providers Softbank and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD ) . And that doesn't even cover the fresh semiconductor and software blood. Or is that fresh hydraulic oil?
The sudden rush of corporate interest in the Android platform probably stems from the early success of the T-Mobile G1. These guys were likely waiting in the wings all along, ready to climb aboard after seeing what the scout troops could do. This is not the end of the iPhone, nor of the BlackBerry. What we do have here is a fresh take on what cell phones can do, and how they should work. These companies will reach out to new niche markets and expand the total market for smartphones. But they'll also nibble at the incumbent leaders' heels in the process, enough to keep Steve Jobs on his toes.
Bad robot, no oil change!