Even Apple's iPhone partner AT&T (NYSE: T ) has jumped onto Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android bandwagon. The Wall Street Journal says that an AT&T Android is coming early next year, and it will be built by PC maker Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) .
We have known about Dell's plans to build smartphones for some time, and the company announced an Android-based phone in China this summer. So it's no surprise to see an Android with Dell's logo stamped on its forehead. But AT&T has not shown much of a desire to sell Android phones, retrenching behind the exclusive iPhone deal instead. That's why I'm flabbergasted by Dell's choice of network partner.
Then again, AT&T did recently allow eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY ) Skype service to route phone calls through the iPhone's 3G Internet connection rather than forcing users to find a Wi-Fi connection. Are these small tremors in AT&T's previously unshakeable iPhone foundation early signs of the company moving away from Apple in general?
AT&T's exclusive deal with Apple is set to expire as early as next year, and you might soon be able to buy iPhones from competing network providers like T-Mobile or Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) . In fact, letting the iPhone get away might even be in AT&T's best interest. Ma Bell's 3G network is straining under the load from overly enthusiastic iPhone users and their hunger for high-bandwidth video streams. Of course, replacing or augmenting the iPhone with other highly capable smartphones from Dell, Samsung, or Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) probably won't reduce the network load by much. Time to start rolling out the next-generation 4G network, AT&T?
The flood of Androids has started in earnest and won't let up anytime soon. Google expects to have at least a dozen models on the market by the end of the year, which leaves plenty more announcements in the coming months. In three years, IT research firm Gartner believes that the plethora of Androids will surpass Apple's single-phone business model in worldwide unit sales.
And the first batch of dominoes is falling today.