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Android's Climb Shaking Up the Smartphone Biz

Earlier this spring the Android operating system made history when it outsold Apple's iPhone. Now comes confirmation this wasn't a one-off: Google's Andy Rubin says that 200,000 Android devices are getting activated each day. In June, Google was reporting the number at 160,000 a day, up from May's 100,000 a day. And this week, a market research group issued its latest finding: Android overtook the Blackberry to become the top-selling smartphone platform in the United States.

Even in an industry where fast change is the sine qua non of competition, this is a stunning change in the constellation of forces. It so happened that the new market share numbers came out just as RIM was debuting its newest Blackberry - the "Torch" - but early reviews for the new product remain mixed. (Also see: BlackBerry's New Torch Makes a Leap From Drab)

So is it any wonder that reporters are mining every word that spills out of Eric Schmidt's mouth for clues about what's next. (Remember that they used to do the same with Steve Jobs - back in the days when Apple's CEO didn't limit his speaking engagements to product debuts or glitch fixes.)

Check out this PC World roundup of Android's likely product directions. Some of what's been announced - or rumored - may fall flat. But part of Google's MO has always been to put new technologies into the market and see what sticks in and what doesn't. After the company's surprise cancellation of Google Wave a couple of days ago, Schmidt told a gathering at a Lake Tahoe confab this week: "We celebrate our failures."

And so they do. Google's going to celebrate Android, though, for different reasons. It's been clear since fall 2008, when the T-Mobile G1 debuted, that Google has had a hit on its hands. (The company has released five new iterations of Android since then.) With the platform also moving in directions beyond smartphones, it's likely to become increasingly familiar to millions more Americans by the end of the year.