China's Chunghwa Telecom may become the first mobile operator to offer a Chinese-language handset running Google's Android mobile platform, courtesy of its close relationship with smartphone maker High Tech Computer (HTC).

The two Taiwanese firms have partnered to launch several HTC handsets in the past, and Chunghwa is already looking into working with HTC on the Google phone, said Chen Chang-rong, vice president of the mobile business group at Chunghwa Telecom. "It won't be out for a while, maybe the end of this year or early next year," he said. "There are a lot of issues to work out in the handsets."

There had been some speculation that Chunghwa may be the first company worldwide to offer a handset based on Google's Android software to users in Taiwan because of its relationship with HTC, but Chen dispelled that myth.

"We'll launch a Chinese-language version, and it takes a little more time to localise the software and put it out. English language versions will be out first," he said.

HTC may still be among the first mobile phone makers to launch a Google handset. So far, the company is among the first to admit it's working on a phone designed around Android, and it may have gained a march on rivals by jumping into development early. The company is known for its high-end handsets, and especially for making the Windows Mobile OS more widely available before most manufacturers would use the OS. HTC is still the largest maker of handsets based in Windows Mobile.

Google launched Android last year as part of the Open Handset Alliance Project. The company launched Android with partners in the alliance, including LG Electronics, Motorola and Samsung Electronics. Android is an open-source software platform that includes an OS and is designed to take advantage of internet services for mobility.

HTC has said it expects to launch its Android-based handset in the second half of this year.

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