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.
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.