Hit and Run: Google Android

Google is awesome and Android is a great concept: a really lofty ideal that pretty much only a giant like Google could have a hope of realizing. When mobile Linux didn’t take off on its own and it started to become clear that there wasn’t going to be a large scale open-source mobile platform, they acted with insight and decisiveness, announcing Android in 2007, and first releasing it in 2008. Now here’s why I think they’re going to blow it.

I recently sat down with the 'droid for some hard-hitting back-and-forth (forever)

I recently sat down with the 'droid for some hard-hitting back-and-forth (forever)

Android is an operating system, but not generally used by manufacturers in unmodified form. That’s because manufacturers want to differentiate their hardware and first-party software offerings. If they want to compete, they pretty much have to. I would say this is akin to Linux splintering off into a million flavors; each flavor has its own App Store equivalent and its own community for making sure that App Store works. Gentoo doesn’t readily work with apt or yum, but the Gentoo community keeps Portage working. Same goes for Ubuntu or whatever. Developers don’t worry about their package working on bizarre distros because there’s a community for that.

Manufacturers mess it all up by making their own flavor and expecting developers to support it. They’ll tweak or leave out functionality and still call it an Android phone. Google wants Android to get popular like Linux (moreso, probably), but it won’t happen because everyone keeps passing the buck on keeping software running seamlessly across hardware. I don’t see how Google can regulate, or how developers can keep up, so it comes back to the manufacturers. Remember manufacturers are the ones who couldn’t afford to develop a decent operating system of their own in the first place; they’re inherently greedy and they suck at software. I foresee a rough road for our boy Android.

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6 responses to “Hit and Run: Google Android

  1. Haha, yeah I read that and I of course agree with a lot of it. I think good old Fake Steve is a bit iPhone-centric, and leaves Android for dead. I wanted to add my Linux/Open-Source view and bring it back to my conclusion that manufacturers don’t need to lock it down, they just need to either build to standards or be able to somehow directly customize the delivery system to allow Android apps to work on their modified Android OS. An extensible Android App Store perhaps?

  2. The extensible Android App store could solve the software problem, but then there’s the (IMO bigger) hardware problem. Fake Steve touched on this in first edition of the column referenced earlier (http://www.fakesteve.net/2009/10/so-here-is-issue-with-android.html). I have never tried programming for a mobile device before, but I imagine it would add several levels of difficulty to have to program something to be flexible enough to handle different screen sizes, methods of input, etc., especially when you’re not likely to have all of those devices around to test on. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out, but I’m not holding my breath for anything earth-shattering 🙂

  3. Also, I really need to stop ending my posts with :).

  4. The draw is supposed to be that Android is going to be on way more phones, so it’s worth the extra hassle to add minor modifications. But right now Android’s on like 1% more phones.

    What makes Fake Steve funny is that everything is in context of Apple, which of course makes sense since he is a caricature of Steve Jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people use OS X than Linux for personal computing these days. But Linux is not going to go away, and I’d be surprised if Android goes away anytime soon. It’s just a matter of what form it eventually takes.

  5. I’m not trying to suggest that Android is going to go away anytime soon, just that it will have a really hard time getting its app store to take off the way Apple’s has with the iPhone.

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