The first phones to be loaded with Google's Android mobile software have been unveiled at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Internet giant launched the platform last year in an effort to establish its software as the prevalent operating system in mobile phones.

About a dozen companies such as ARM, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm showed off prototype handsets on Monday to crowds of Vendors expect the first Android-enabled phone is expected to go on sale later this year.

Google announced a 34-member group called the Open Handset Alliance in November last year to

develop the software, including China Mobile, HTC, Intel, Motorola, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, Telefonica, LG and eBay.

The Mountain View Calif.-based firm hopes to capitalize on the rising demand of mobile Internet with a platform for improved functionality, notably for web browsing. Currently, surfing the Internet on a mobile phone can still be a frustrating experience, with clunky software and slow download speeds.

There are few phones that provide a compelling web experience, explained Google's CEO Eric Schmidt. As people use the web more, they'll use Google more, and we'll be able to sell more relevant advertising.

The search giant surprised analysts when it unveiled Android last November. They had expected the Internet giant to announce the launch of its own gPhone to compete against Apple's popular iPhone.

Imagine not just a single Google phone, or G-phone, but thousands of G-phones made by a variety of manufacturers, said Schmidt at the time.

The Google Android platform is based on open source Linux software that allows developers access to the underlying code. This allows programmers much greater flexibility to build applications and features tailored to individual phones, representatives said.

Other companies also showed off Android prototypes such as Marvell, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, NEC and ST Microelectronics.

Korean handset manufacturer Samsung has also said it hopes to have a phone based on Android by early next year.

Android was not the only Linux platform making waves in Barcelona, however.

The Mobile Linux foundation said that 18 phones from seven different firms would be demonstrated at 3GSM using its Limo software.