Fourteen of the world's largest mobile phone and chip makers, including Sony Ericsson, Vodafone Group Plc and ARM Holdings Plc, joined the Open Handset Alliance to support the Android mobile device platform developed by Google Inc.

The new members' Dec. 9 pledge to back the Android software is a significant feat for Google in the mobile phone industry, as its T-Mobile G1 phone takes on rival Apple Inc's wildly popular iPhone 3G. As previously reported, Amazon developed a version of its MP3 store for the new Android platform and the application is pre-installed in the G1.

Sony Ericsson, a joint venture of Japan's Sony Corp and Sweden's Ericsson, said on Tuesday it plans to release a mobile phone that uses the Android software in mid-2009.

"Android is set to become a significant application framework for mobile phones," said Ericsson's head of mobile platforms Robert Puskaric in a statement.

By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each of the members commits to developing applications and services for mobile phones and handsets using the Android platform or designing Android-compatible mobile devices. Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc, Toshiba Corp and Garmin Ltd also pledged their support, bringing the total number of companies in the Open Handset Alliance to 47.

Both Google and Apple have wooed developers to create applications for their mobile devices, but Apple keeps a tight grip on the iPhone's hardware and operating software. Google's Android is open to being changed by outside developers.

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