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Strong Droid Launch Should Worry Apple

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Analyst predicts 10 million sales for Motorola in 2010.

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It may not be comforting to Apple (AAPL), but a smartphone competitor could find solace in hitting the 100,000 sales mark on its first weekend. Mark McKechnie at Broadpoint AmTech estimates that Motorola (MOT) hit the six-figure mark during the Droid's first weekend on the shelves, Bloomberg reports.

Carried by Verizon Wireless (VZ), the generally well-received Droid didn't attract lines around the block like a new iPhone model usually does, but Verizon stores were able to sell roughly half their stock in just three days. Based on those numbers, McKechnie predicts that Motorola could sell 1 million Droids and other Google (GOOG) Android phones in the fourth quarter and 10 million in 2010. And according to AppleInsider, analyst Jim Suva at Citigroup places the numbers closer to 1.3 million in the fourth quarter and 9 million in 2010.

For Apple -- which sold over a million iPhone 3GS models in the same three-day time span this summer -- those figures would be devastating for its popular mobile device. But coming from a competitor, Steve Jobs probably finds them a tad worrisome.

Verizon is riding a huge wave of publicity following its recent marketing campaign targeting the tenuous relationship between AT&T (T) and Apple. The ads -- which depict AT&T's dismal 3G service in a colorful map -- spurred AT&T's legal team to file a lawsuit (see, AT&T's Lawsuit Only Magnifies Spotty Service). Although the company didn't deny its 3G service is severely lacking, it did cite the potential confusion viewers would have between 3G and regular cell phone reception -- despite the very clear captions below the maps.

In response, Verizon will confidently challenge the lawsuit in court and -- showing no signs of distress -- has released three more anti-AT&T ads featuring the very same map, adding an iPhone knockoff depressed by AT&T coverage for good measure.

Although user gripes against AT&T are deep-rooted, will consumers consistently opt for Motorola's Android phones over Apple's sleek iPhone once Verizon's publicity push dies out?

The Android operating system has made some long strides since its inception, and Version 2.0 has been deemed the best of its kind. With an open source format, heavy Google App integration, and a constantly-improving app store, it stands as a viable alternative to Apple's highly rated App Store.

However, Motorola has a series of obstacles to surpass in order to come even close to the iPhone. Brand recognition, customer loyalty, app variety, Droid's lack of multi-touch, horrible MP3 and video players, iTunes incompatibility, and simply inferior sleekness are keeping Apple's happy customers at bay.

On the other hand, after the release of T-Mobile's (DT) G1, the Motorola Droid is the best Android contender to sway iPhone owners and potential buyers. Third-party developers realize this and are scrambling to design bigger and better Android apps -- already having a guideline in Apple's App Store. Next year will see a surge in Android apps and the overwhelming support could easily push Motorola past the 10 million mark in 2010.

Simply put, Apple better watch its back.

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