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Google Mobile

Android: Early Analysis

As expected, on Monday (Nov 5th) Google announced their open mobile OS to the world, along with a very powerful new alliance with over 30 companies in the mobile space. Along with the announcement on their blog, they also organized a conference call where they brought industry leaders representing the strong alliance.

Over the past couple days I have been browsing and digesting the various aspects of this announcements and reactions from the blogosphere. This post is an attempt to distill down the details and offer my analysis of the situation.

Please bear in mind that this is only an early analysis. Once Android releases their SDK on Nov 12th, more details shall be available. I break this analysis into four simple categories, Salient items, impacts, issues and desires.

Salient Aspects

Here are some of the important elements from the announcement:

Android Robot
  • It’s not a physical phone but an Operating System based on Linux
  • It’s offered as an Open operating system available to anyone for modifications
  • Google doesn’t think they can do this alone and hence have formed the Open Handset Alliance
    • This is where they differ from Apple, who believes in delivering a holistic experience
  • The handset manufacturers and carriers who are part of the alliance are free to deploy this OS in any shape or form
    • The can slice and dice it as they please
  • The Android OS offers equal capability to all applications deployed on it
    • All applications are created equal and can leverage native resources equally.
  • Applications can access web services and possibly create mashups
  • Speculation is that OpenSocial apps will also be supported on Android

For full details go here.

Industry Impacts

In my opinion Android will have some strong impacts on the mobile industry.

  • Android will push the “Open Device, Open Applications” model in the mobile arena
  • It can officially break the “Walled Garden”
  • Android has the ability to offer application developers “Write Once, Run Anywhere” capability
    • This applies to handsets and carriers within the alliance
  • Android can finally bridge the gap between the Internet and Mobile ecosystems
  • Has the potential to offer unlimited personalization and customization

Main Issues

Having read through the announcement and the conference call transcript, here is my list of pain points:

  • Although touted as the “Open OS”, carriers can still customize lock the final offering
    • There is no mandate within the alliance to keep the device open when offering to the users
  • This is positioned as the platform for quick development, however the first device won’t ship until mid 2008
  • There is no mention of revenue enablement capabilities. One would think that Google will probably enable some sort of local ad engine.
  • Although the OS offers full access to local capabilities, it does not mention anything around “Open Access” to carrier network capabilities
    • For example: Can all the applications access SMSC, VoiceMail, MMSC etc?
  • No mention if carriers will allow or restrict applications competing with their own service.
    • For example: Can Twitter or Jaiku offer SMS services on the handset, where they leverage their own network and not the carrier’s
  • No standard on User Experience. UI is one of the most important aspects of a mobile phone.
    • iPhone’s success is attributed to their world-class Touch UI

Wishes and Desires

Going further I hope Google can incorporate the following within Android:

  • Guaranteed “Open Access” by all members of the alliance
  • Open libraries for common network services
  • Leverage its service portfolio as applications on the handset
    • I describe some thoughts here and here
  • Includes methods for handset manufacturers to extend Android SDK to offer access to additional device capabilities
    • For example if an OEM wants to offer access to the Accelerometer, it should simply be able to extend the SDK
  • Enable next generation calling features using GrandCentral. Read more here.
  • Extend OpenSocial to the Android SDK

Overall I believe its an interesting move from Google. I do feel that Google may have rushed with the announcement and provided half baked details. This defintely makes it difficult to accurately plot the roadmap and decipher the impacts. I am hoping that the veil will gradually come off in the coming weeks and we can get additional clarity.

Hope you enjoyed the analysis. Please send in your comments, questions and criticisms.

By Abhishek Tiwari

SVP Product wiser.com | ❤️ building Enterprise SaaS & Consumer Products | Beer & BBQ, enthusiast

33 replies on “Android: Early Analysis”

@Dvorak Fan,

I think you need to watch this video about your beloved Dvorak…

Also I think you should read the post carefully. I am somewhat critical and underwhelmed by Google.

Although I do think its an interesting move in the mobile landscape, which will make people think.

Actually, do you think that shows how intelligent he really is? My prediction is that Google will not be successful in this space with just a unproven operating environment.

@Dvorak Fan,

No one knows if Google will be successful or not. Only time will tell. However writing them off this early in the game would be foolish.

As you can read from my analysis, I think it needs way more to get to being successful.

I also believe people are making the mistake of comparing this with the iPhone. That again is a mistake, as that is like comparing apples and oranges.

One has to clearly understand the unique approach here. Google is pushing the “Open” OS within the mobile landscape. This is a just a start. If they dont succeed, someone else will. Apple will soon announce their APIs to the iPhone. This is such a contrast from locked down J2ME or BREW environments.

I am not placing my bets on Google. However this is changing the market, which is going to beneficial for users like you and me in the long run.

Experience tells me J2ME and BREW can be done by anyone. Actually, you need to do something for BREW, but anyone can do it. This is not a locked down environment in my professional opinion.

Actually, my opinion of your analysis is that is shallow and needs more depth. It is rushed compared to your other gphone post.

Dvorak Fan,

Sure J2ME and BREW can be done by anyone. No one is debating that. I am merely pointing out the restrictive nature of these environments. For example neither of these environments will allow you to access the “Last Called numbers” or device resident accelerometer.

They are not locked down but restrictive. J2ME and BREW apps don’t get equal status as all other applications authored by the OEM. So I do appreciate your professional opinion on the matter, but I think you may need a refresher.

Finally, I actually agree with you about this post. It was my early analysis of their announcement and not as thought out as the other gPhone posts. I am planning a much detailed follow-up in coming weeks. Just waiting for the Android announcement to sink in further.

Refrehser? Maybe I could use a refresher. I retired thanks to being able to write J2ME applications. I can assure you having access to the “last number” or “device resident accelerometer” was not important. There is more than enough access available for J2ME appliations. Let the device makers worry about applications that need that.

I may have to build another company when Apple releases their sdk so I can build my nest egg further. Who knows, maybe you will be working for me. Imagination is a wonderful thing – I can tell you have that.

“access to the “last number” or “device resident accelerometer” was not important”

Yes it wasn’t important. However it is important now. I mention this in my gPhone posts. Things like call list and such are a true representation of the social graph and allow tremendous leverage for social apps.

Anyways, I am certainly curious about the J2ME apps, which help you retire…
With respect to working together, sure why not. I am always open to new ideas.

Drop me a email.

No standard on User Experience. UI is one of the most important aspects of a mobile phone.
* iPhone’s success is attributed to their world-class Touch UI

I tend to think that since UE manufacturers can customise the OS without making their modifications “open”, each one could possibly create a GUI that’s closer to their own branding. So the final success of a phone may be not just what the OS can offer but what developers can make out of it. Ultimately, the power of Android would lie in a modular, lean and customizable architecture. Without that, it is unlikely that anything that comes out of it will rise against the competition.

What do the experts think?

Arvind,

Yes I agree with your view on the matter. This will certainly allow carriers and OEMs to control the nature of the UI.

However that means its open season on the UI. Before the iPhone we have seen the UI on devices and even after that, the competition just cannot produce anything valuable. I have written more about it here.

I just wish there was some sort of “UI Best Practices”. This way we (as users) could have been guaranteed of a better UI.

I guess we will have to just wait till mid 2008.

Abhishek

[…] Google on the other hand launched the open device operating system, called Android and established the Open Handset Alliance. This alliance brings together various OEM vendors and carriers alike. The idea is to provide a open operating system, which will enable carriers and OEMs to enable a flexible open ecosystem, where 3rd party developers and service providers can easily deploy applications. Although the handsets aren’t coming out till mid 2008, many remain hopeful of this effort. Read my early analysis on this here. […]

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