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Heavy Load on Droid's Pointy Shoulders

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The guesswork has begun as analysts try to predict how many Motorola (MOT) Droid phones Verizon (VZ - Get Report)can sell when the Google (GOOG) Android-powered device debuts next Friday.

One thing seems certain: You will find it hard to avoid the massive upcoming Droid advertising campaign, which Verizon calls its biggest marketing effort ever.

There is a lot riding on the Droid, to be sure. Verizon needs a holiday blockbuster. Motorola needs Droid's success to get back in the game. And the ultimate showdown is how well the Droid does compared with Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iPhone sold by Verizon rival AT&T (T - Get Report).

Motorola CEO Talks Droid

The magic number in this matchup is 1 million phones sold. And the $400 million-plus question is how long it takes to get there. (Macquarie Securities analyst Phil Cusick estimates Motorola collects more than $400 per phone from each sale.)

In other words, will it burst out of the gate like the iPhone, or stumble like the Palm (PALM) Pre?

"Half a million units on the debut weekend is the target to beat if you want to challenge the iPhone," says Nielsen analyst Roger Entner.

Fittingly, the iPhone is the measure of success. Not only has the slim touchscreen iPhone set the current standard for smartphones, but its debut sales performance, complete with round-the-clock blogging from the waiting line and glaring door-buster media coverage, is the yardstick of any initial gadget success.

It took 74 days for the original iPhone to hit the million-sold mark. But the follow-up iPhone 3GS hit a million in three days.

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