Google's PR machine builds some early buzz for Android

Last Monday, Google unveiled Android, its new mobile platform slated for release at the end of 2008.

In the news
Last Monday, Google unveiled Android, its new mobile platform slated for release at the end of 2008. Thus, some reporters tabbed the software platform vaporware, a software or hardware product announced by a developer well ahead of release that sometimes never gets created. Some scoffed, but Google built buzz by offering a peek at what Android might look like through releasing a software developer kit.

Phones running Android inevitably will be compared to the Apple iPhone, so the platform is expected to allow for the third-party applications. Google is giving away $10 million in prizes, through its Android Developers Challenge, for those who create programs for the platform.

If Google can make good on its release date, Android-running phones could be true competition for the iPhone.

Why does it matter?
"It's primarily a PR move from Google," says Chetan Sharma, president of tech and strategy consulting firm Chetan Sharma Consulting, who is among those skeptical of the launch. "The product isn't ready and they're just trying to generate buzz. And they did that by getting a good set of partners across the world, which attracts a lot of developers."

Companies increasingly have been announcing their products long before they hits the streets as a way to build excitement and set the stage for frenzied, high-grossing debut dates. This can be effective in stopping competitors from launching similar products and forcing others to react to you, he adds.

In the future, Google will have to follow more concrete steps to line up the product delivery next year and bring on new partners. Existing partners that have signed on will also need to show continued support and enthusiasm for the Android, says Sharma. "Otherwise, it will [fizzle]."

Five facts:

1. The Android Developers Challenge offers 50 prizes of $25,000 each for the best programs submitted by March 3, with 50 of the entries competing for greater cash prizes.

2. Vaporware examples include the Apple Mac word processor FullWrite Professional, announced in January 1987 for April delivery, but actually delivered in late 1988.

3. Before CD-R was released, Tandy introduced Thor-CD,
a recordable CD format which was pushed back several years and finally shelved. It's now known as "Vapordisc."

4. The computer game Duke Nukem Forever has won Wired News' Vaporware Awards numerous times. The game has been in development for over ten years. The original projected release was two years after its announcement.

5. Microsoft's Longhorn OS was first discussed in 2001 and set for a 2004 release. It was eventually renamed Windows Vista and first versions were released in November 2006.

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