Google mobile tablet

Google Inc.’s Android system has come under malware attacks recently.

Reports of malware attacks on cell phones and tablets using Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system has put an undesirable spotlight on the vulnerability of the Internet search giant’s Android Market.

The situation also highlights the differences between Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) approach to mobile security and Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL).

Whereas Google doesn’t vet the security of apps before letting them be offered for download, Apple notoriously rules its App Store offerings with an iron hand.

So it really wasn’t surprising when computer-security experts last week found more than 50 malicious applications on the Android Market that could create unwanted and perhaps dangerous mischief on unsuspecting users’ devices.

Google’s approach to apps has been buyer beware and relies on community enforcement, the so-called wisdom of the crowd. When the crowd is downloading something with a name like “Hilton Sex Sound,” that wisdom seems more than a little suspect.

Apple’s approach is to reassure iPhone, iPad and Mac users that everything for sale or free download in its App Store is safe and tested.

Google said in a blog post over the weekend that the malware was downloaded on only about 260,000 devices and that it was able to remotely fix the problem. It also suspended the accounts of the developers who uploaded the apps and has informed law enforcement.

Google’s looser approach to mobile has helped Android become the No. 1 operating system in the United States. It has also helped it to rapidly gain ground on the number of apps it offers Android users, although it still trails Apple by a wide margin.

But negative publicity like last week’s malware discovery could hamper its drive to be the dominant mobile choice.

Android claimed about 29 percent of the U.S. market in the period, followed by Apple and Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM), tied at No. 2 with 27 percent each.

Unlike Apple and RIM, Google licenses its Android operating system to other device makers, with HTC and Motorola selling the devices that count for most of its share.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which has 1,500 employees in the Dayton region, had exclusivity for the iPhone until Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) was granted rights to sell the iPhone. Verizon is selling its iPhones through its stores as well as at Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) and Best Buy Co. (NYSE: BBY) stores.

A recent report also said Android was gaining fast in the tablet market, but that report was before Apple launched its iPad 2 this week.

Competition is heating up even more in the mobile tablet category though as Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) announced that it will produce a tablet with the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) operating system, according to the report. And that Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is planning a tablet as well.

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