Rhodri Marsden: Now the market is open for an iPhone killer

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It seems inconceivable that anyone could coo over a gadget more devotedly than an iPhone owner. But this far-fetched notion is exactly what Google are pinning their hopes on with the launch of the G1.

Indeed, their partners for this device, T-Mobile, gave it the codename Kila during development – perhaps as a misspelt hint towards their hopes of knocking the iPhone from its smartphone pedestal.

But will it? If we were being supremely shallow and just talking looks, the answer would be no. While HTC, the manufacturer of the device, has brought out some sleek-looking phones in recent years, this particular model has already been variously described as "clunky" and "ugly". But Google plans to shift the battleground from sleek design to the software that runs on the phones. The key to success, Google believes, is wooing developers, those independent software programmers who might just come up with that "killer application" that makes a mobile a must-have.

So, regardless of whether its built-in keyboard is better than a screen-based one, or that it undercuts the iPhone on price, the long-term success of the G1 and future Googlephones could depend on that one simple message that's being given to developers: Do what the hell you like.