Motorola confirms Android plans, but won't say how big

Motorola first endorsed Google's Android platform almost a year ago. Yet now that HTC and T-Mobile are about to release the G1 phone, Motorola has confirmed to BetaNews that it will actually dive into the Android waters.

In a statement to BetaNews this morning, Motorola confirmed industry speculation that it is working on products for the Google-spearheaded Android platform. But a Motorola spokesperson refrained from commenting on published reports that the company is boosting its Android team from 50 to 350 developers.

"We're excited about the innovation possibilities on Android, and [we] look forward to delivering great products in partnership with Google and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA)," a Motorola spokesperson said, in a statement to BetaNews.

The official confirmation of Motorola's plans for Android products should come as no surprise, really, since Motorola acted as one of the OHA's founding members upon the organization's launch back in November of 2007, along with fellow cell phone makers HTC, LG, and Samsung.

Yet while HTC's "Dream" phone is one and the same as the Android-based G1 phone that T-Mobile rolled out last week, Motorola and the other handset partners in the OHA have held back from making Android product announcements.

Motorola's statement today fell short of confirming published reports, beginning with yesterday's report in TechCrunch, that Motorola is now in the process of beefing up the Android development team -- by some accounts, as much as seven-fold.

Some observers are now touting Android as a salve to the financial pains Motorola has sustained in its inability to find a successor to its previously successful RAZR phone.

Last April, Motorola reorganized its mobile phone arm into product teams -- one for lower-end, voice-only phones, and the other for feature and smart phones -- that each combine hardware and software specialists. Previously, hardware and software specialists worked in different groups.

In a statement issued at the time of the OHA launch last year, Ed Zander -- who was later replaced as Motorola's CEO by Greg Brown -- gave a ringing endorsement from Motorola to the Linux-enabled Android platform.

"Motorola has long been an advocate of open software for mobile platforms. Today, we're excited to continue this support by joining Google and others in the announcement of the Open Handset Alliance and Android platform. Motorola plans to leverage the Android platform to enable seamless, connected services and rich consumer experiences in future Motorola products," according to Zander.

Since then, Motorola began moving into the Linux phone market early this year with the announcement of the Motorola U9, a phone supporting the Linux Mobile Foundation (LiMo) platform. Yet it continues to sell phones phones such as the Motorola Q which use Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform.

Meanwhile, Motorola rival Nokia is now rumored to be exploring Android, despite its acquisition of mobile OS maker Symbian earlier this year, In buying Symbian, Nokia also turned over Symbian development to a multi-vendor group called the Symbian Foundation.

The full text of Motorola's statement to BetaNews follows:

Motorola is pleased to see the industry enthusiasm and support of the Android operating system. As a pioneer in mobile Linux and a founder of OHA, Motorola believes Android is it promises to be one of the most powerful, flexible and customizable open platforms, enabling truly integrated mobile hardware, software and web experiences. We're excited about the innovation possibilities on Android, and look forward to delivering great products in partnership with Google and the Open Handset Alliance community.

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