Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
For many celebrities, 2009 continues to be a year of endings, but at least two handset pioneers have pinned their hopes on rebirths this year. Following Palm's return to its roots with a homegrown operating system earlier this year, Motorola has committed to a new smartphone direction with Android and its BLUR social contact architecture. Motorola's first announced Android device, the CLIQ, is less distinctive than Palm's Pre or Pixi, but advances the horizontal keyboard slider form factor that provided a successful launchpad for the T-Mobile G1. With high-volume competitors Samsung and LG also planning to release Android devices and HTC marrying Android to its Sense user interface, though, Motorola has incentive to differentiate with software.
All smartphones must decide where they want to integrate and where they want to provide a platform for innovation. RIM, for example, has integrated what is still the best e-mail management application into the BlackBerry (although its lack of HTML email and IMAP support are real drawbacks these days) and Apple has integrated both its own Safari browser as well as services such as Google Maps. But now companies such as Palm and Motorola are integrating social networks, and that could have some downsides.