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Panasonic to embrace open-source smartphones

Panasonic is considering a move into open-source smartphone platforms in markets outside Japan. Will Android be the big winner or just share part of the prize?


Despite an overwhelming wealth of confidence from Google's Android team, smartphones and other devices running the open-source operating system remain few and far between. As Crave's Kent German wrote earlier this week, 2009 was supposed to be the "year of Android" and five months into the year, not a single new Android device has landed in the United States.

But it looks like Panasonic is getting closer to taking the plunge into non-Japanese markets as the company launches the HT-03a, its first Android-based device for NTT Docomo this summer in Japan.

Speaking at a press conference in Japan, Keisuke Ishii, board member and director of the Mobile Terminal Business Unit at Panasonic Mobile Communications, said the company is "seriously considering developing an Android-based handset and entering overseas mobile phone markets in fiscal 2010."

"The global market for smartphones based on open-source platforms including Android will reach 100 million units in three years," Ishii said. "We are discussing specific measures to succeed in such a large market."

It is good to see big vendors like Panasonic embrace open source, but I wonder how much, if anything they'll give back to the Android development community. I also wonder what changes are taking place in Android that will make it so much easier for companies to bring new products to market much faster. A hundred million is a big number and Android hasn't yet proven its mettle.

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