Google Android: All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Run

In the war for smartphone market share, Google's Android is unquestionable an underdog.
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Updated from 9:40 a.m. EDTGoogle (GOOG) - Get Report has been in heavy training for the match of its life.

The reigning king of online search in the desktop arena, the gold-medal champ of Internet advertising -- Google, through its Android software arm, is now a contender in a do-or-die battle for a big spot in the mobile market.

Heavyweights in the field include

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

and its Symbian operating system, BlackBerry maker

Research In Motion

(RIMM)

, upstart

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

and

a staggering

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

with its Windows Mobile system.

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Each bring a special approach to the fight. Nokia has the unmatched size and reach, holding 40% of the smartphone market. RIM's knockout punch is email. Apple's iPhone is a showboat that dazzles crowds with media prowess. And Microsoft is fighting to carry an enormous Windows franchise to smartphones.

Former champ,

Palm

(PALM)

is in the wings with its own touchscreen Pre phone and new operating system.

Google, of course, brings search and is eager to repeat its desktop success in the broader wireless domain.

To date, Google forced federal regulators to adopt open standards for holders of new wireless spectrum licenses. That opened the door for a new generation of devices for future networks.

Google funded Android, a smartphone operating system that

HTC

fashioned into a touchscreen phone called G1 sold exclusively by

Deutsche Telekom's

(DT) - Get Report

T-Mobile. And while other phone makers, notably

Motorola

(MOT)

, have selected Android as its software partner, a

new crop of G-phones

has yet to arrive.

And that is the technical knockout Google's facing. Android's fortunes ride on the talents and willingness of phone manufacturers and telcos required to underwrite the sale of the phone.

The track record for smartphone system developers that don't make smartphones isn't promising.

The question is will Google's ultimate fate be more like Microsoft's or Apple's?

Google shares were recently up 4.9% to $335.34.