Hello again, Vincent here. Excuse me, I seem to be in a cranky mood lately, as far as technology goes, probably explaining my public rants towards the Facebooks and Scobles of this world. But I can’t let that stop me, here’s another one, aimed at Google’s Android.
Yesterday, Rich Miner, group manager for mobile platforms for Google, announced that he believed the distribution of Android to surpass that of the iPhone-OS. Maybe so, but I have little doubt that it will be equally, if not more crippled than the iPhone has been so far.
- and the business-model.
On the hardware-side, Google will have to design an OS for a number of mobile-technologies, ranging from Samsung to Motorola. The kind of legacy-support kind of reminds me of a number of other software-projects: Microsoft’s Windows, which is historically (maybe not currently) known for its software-vulnerabilities due to its legacy-support; and cross-platform web-ware like Adobe’s Air and Flash, and Sun’s Java, both not exactly top-of-the-line in terms of performance and elegance. But, cross-platform alone has never stopped developers from creating (mostly free) applications. So, my worries here are security and user-interface, and I expect the latter to especially suck.
The other side is the carriers, who have shown no qualms about enforcing their rules on both hardware- and software-manufacturers. Fact is that while iPhone 2.0 may become more open, it will be limited by Apple to not disrupt their business-arrangement with carriers. This is implemented in two ways: in the restricted range of applications that can be developed for the iPhone (e.g. very likely no Skype) and the distribution of said applications (centralised and approved by Apple or NO GO).
Finally, the business-model. When the iPhone SDK was released, it was reportedly downloaded more than 100,000 times. Very likely this happened for several reasons:
- the market for Apple-products is notably less price-sensitive (k-ching, baby!);
- iTunes as a store (easy $$$);
- VCs like Kleiner Perkins are holding out carrots (omg, I’m gonna be rich);
- and it has strong relationships with carriers (a big barrier for mobile software-publishing so far).
Will the same thing happen for Google’s Android? Let’s see.
- It’s Google, and we all know that the company does not have a history for charging for things.
- While Google has created ecosystems of “apps” with its iGoogle and Google desktop-service, I don’t think any of these are premium. Also, their video-store, its one commercial platform, has failed.
- Similarly, it’s releasing the OS for free under an Apache Software License, and we all know how easy it is to make money on open-source platforms.
- There is a fund, but it comes from Google, not exactly a signal that the market believes in Android’s commercial success
- It does have confirmed partnerships with carriers like China Mobile, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile, but how restrictive will these partnerships be?
And probably some other things I forgot.
I may be cranky, but believe me that I want software like Android to succeed. Just like I want a self-sufficient Linux OS (no, it doesn’t exist!). But Google’s strategy appears too fragmented, too focussed on the technology, and too little on the business of it. Maybe, maybe, Google is planning to become a carrier themselves. There have been plenty of rumours about that since the 700 Mhz auction. Instead, I expect that their main goal is to extend their advertising-platform as efficiently as possible to the mobile sphere, and that that would be incompatible with a large technology-push towards building physical networks.
What do you think? Thumbs up or down for Android and why???
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