Android marches on
Barcelona: Who's the biggest noise in the mobile phone industry right now? No, not Apple, and, despite all the excitement of that shotgun marriage on Friday, it's neither Nokia nor Microsoft. As the Mobile World Congress gets underway in Barcelona it's clear that Google's Android is fast becoming the industry's 800lb gorilla. If a little green robot can be a gorilla.
I got here late on Saturday, and since then just about every conversation has come back to Android. Google, which has lurked on the sidelines in previous years has a big stand at the event this time, with a giant Android looking benignly down at the milling throng. Or so I'm told by the company, as the showground has not opened yet. The CEO Eric Schmidt will be speaking here, one of his last engagements before he moves upstairs to the chairman's office.
The early product announcements are mostly about new Android handsets, joining the 150 or so that are already out there. That should help extend the lead that Google's ecosystem - that seems to be the term of the moment - already has over its smartphone rivals.
But it's not just in mobile handsets that the green robot is on the march. When I met Google's Hugo Barra outside the Fira exhibition grounds he was wielding a Motorola Xoom, the tablet used to demonstrate the latest version of Android a couple of weeks back. At first glance it looked impressive - and there are already a bunch of other tablets lining up in Barcelona to prove that Android is now better suited than it was before Christmas to work on a larger screen.
Samsung, for instance has already updated the Galaxy Tab which came out in the autumn, giving it a bigger screen and better camera. And I've seen another very impressive tablet from a major manufacturer that will be unveiled later this week. All this before Apple has even confirmed that the iPad 2 is on its way.
Mr Barra was keen to enthuse over the flourishing Android ecosystem, and promised that there would be lots of surprising new devices on show here. He was much less forthcoming on the Nokia Microsoft deal - "it's too early, we don't know any details".
And on whether Android was generating much in the way of profits, either for Google or the manufacturers, Mr Barra was again tight-lipped, just suggesting that a better mobile internet experience was a good thing that would give Nokia more muscle in mobile advertising.
But overall it all looks good for Google. Just one small cloud though. When I wandered down the Ramblas on a pleasant Sunday morning, doing "vox pops" about what was the coolest phone, hardly anyone mentioned Android. The iPhone - with the occasional Blackberry from teenagers - still seemed to be the industry icon. Maybe that is simply because the Android brand is spread over so many different handsets - and maybe it doesn't matter to Google as long as those sales figures keep soaring - but it is that aura around the iPhone which allows Apple to reap such extraordinary profits.
By the way, one thing never changes at Barcelona. Late last night I swear I heard a howling sound echoing across the city as technology journalists struggled to send their copy and their pictures over creaking hotel wi-fi systems or 3G networks. The phones are getting smarter - but the networks still don't look that clever.