Big numbers but more patent hassle for Android

23rd Dec 2011 | 10:00

Big numbers but more patent hassle for Android

More ups and downs for Google

It's been a Google-y kind of week, with a strong emphasis on Android: just yesterday Android boss Andy Rubin took to Google+ to share some impressive numbers.

An incredible 700,000 Android devices are being activated every day, bringing the total number of Android devices in circulation to around eleventy billion - and in case you're wondering, those figures don't include re-activations such as second-hand bits of kit. "We count each device only once," Rubin says.

On the subject of devices, is Google planning its own Android tablet? Could be! The tech exec best suited to a job as a Scooby-Doo villain, Eric Schmidt, dropped heavy hints about a forthcoming Google slate.

"Noi nei prossimi sei mesi contiamo di mettere sul mercato un tablet di altissima qualità," he said, in Italian, because he was in Italy at the time. According to our Translate-O-Meter, that means "In around the next six months we will market / bring to market a tablet of the highest quality."

According to Gareth Beavis, "a Google-Motorola branded tablet with the most advanced Android OS on there would be a real head turner. However, a partnership with someone like Samsung or HTC would also be highly beneficial, as there's no certainty that the Moto-Google deal will go through, and certainly not in time to bring a tablet to the market in the first half of 2012."

There's no doubt that Android's doing exceptionally well - it cracked the 200 million device mark last month and the rather spiffy Ice Cream Sandwich is slowly making its way to recent devices - but not everything is happy in Android land.

Ice Cream nightmare

The promised Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Samsung Nexus S, the first device to get Google's latest OS, has been postponed mid-update.

What's going on? According to Google community manager Paul Wilcox, if you can't see the update, "this is likely the result of Google pausing the update in your area while we monitor feedback". We powered up the Translate-O-Meter, again, and apparently it means "something got borked".

Given that 2011 was already full of highs and lows for Google, you'd think things might calm down for Christmas. Nope! In the latest instalment of everybody in the mobile industry suing everybody else, Android and its allies have found themselves under legal attack.

This week it was HTC's turn, with the firm ordered to change how its phones handle clicks on contacts or face a ban on selling its handsets in America.

As if that wasn't bad enough, BT decided to sue Google over Android (and Google Maps, and Google Music). As Patrick Goss reports, "BT has accused Google of infringing on a range of different patents – including 'service provision for communications network', 'navigation information system', 'telecommunications apparatus and method' and 'storage and retrieval of location based information in a distributed network of data storage devices."

Our cantankerous columnist Gary Marshall is worried. "Manufacturers can barely say 'Look! A new Android thing!' before somebody clobbers them with a lawsuit," he says, arguing that Android is beginning to resemble a frog in a pot: "It thinks it's doing just fine, but the temperature keeps creeping up. By the time it realises it's being boiled, it's too late."

Marshall reckons that Android firms will be hoping the Google/Motorola deal gets the green light from US and EU regulators, enabling Google to threaten rivals with Motorola's enormous patent portfolio. "It's the tech equivalent of nuclear powers' Mutually Assured Destruction," he says. "If you fire at us, we'll fire right back until there's nothing left but cockroaches."

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