Why LG Is Enlisting In the Android Army

LG Electronics hopes to turn around profits in its mobile communications division by building 20 new Google Android (s goog) devices by the end of this year. Although LG’s upcoming handset portfolio isn’t exclusive to Android, the move signals a reversal of sorts — last February, LG announced full support for Microsoft Windows Mobile with plans to create north of 50 handsets on Microsoft’s (s msft) platform. What a difference a year makes.

LG knows that the smartphone landscape of today is quite different from that of February 2009. Back then, Google’s Android platform was just a toddler, as the initial T-Mobile G1 had arrived only five months prior. Based on worldwide AdMob data reported that same month, Apple accounted for 33 percent of web requests while Symbian (s nok) tumbled to 43 percent from 64 percent as BlackBerry (s rimm) and Windows Mobile brought up the rear. LG obviously couldn’t build iPhone (s aapl) or BlackBerry handsets, which left it with either Windows Mobile or Symbian. And while it could have followed in Samsung’s footsteps to build a proprietary platform, such an effort runs the risk of a weak ecosystem if developers aren’t attracted to build software.

LG still can’t build iPhones or BlackBerrys, of course, but it can join the Android army, which sold more Google handsets in the first quarter than Apple sold iPhones. LG may have bet on the wrong horse early last year, as Windows Mobile sales have dropped by comparison. Add in the fact that Microsoft hasn’t moved the platform forward much during that period and it’s clear why LG isn’t officially re-upping for another major tour of duty with Redmond. The company hasn’t said it’s abandoning Windows Mobile, but at least it can build handsets for a hot platform as it waits for Windows Phone 7 to arrive later this year.

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