The whole idea (according to the author) is that the strategy of open-sourcing Android would serve as a platform for offering other Google services around all these other devices in an effort to compete with Apple. I doubt that was Google's plan, but if it was, what a phenomenally bad plan.
My favorite statement: "Google could take full control of Android, by not releasing future versions to open source and changing licensing terms."
Yeah, that would be a great way to compete with iOS -- by restricting access to future versions of the software? What nonsense.
Any manufacturer building on Android was not doing so to become a lackey for Google services, plain and simple. Hence, Samsung and Amazon. The fact that those two companies are now dominating the distribution numbers for Android devices doesn't make Android less successful or endangered -- it only promotes it. And that's good for Google.
Again, I doubt Google is thinking about Android along these lines. However, I'd sure like to be in the room to hear the Android team respond to this author.
It's much more likely to be the fact that it is supported by Amazon's ecosystem (which is alluded to as a comparison to Apple) and the fact that it debuted at an unheard of price ($200) for quality tablets, and ended up really pushing the market price of tablets in general down.
If someone would compare them rationally, they'd see that a "real" Android tablet that costs around the same would have almost no disadvantage and a lot of advantages compared to Kindle Fire: a lot more apps, higher flexibility for anything, better browsers, app sideloading, and on top of all that, they'd also have all of Amazon's services:books, music and videos. So a $200 Kindle Fire would have almost nothing over a $200 Android tablet.
The only problem is that so far none of the manufacturers did that great all-encompassing marketing for a single tablet that offers you a lot of "benefits" and not a list of specs. Amazon did that, and they saw success. I'd like to see at least Google do that with their upcoming (rumored) Nexus tablet.
Being the first to $200 for a tablet that was seemingly as high-quality (or close enough) to an iPad 2, was a big first mover advantage for Amazon, too. A Google tablet that is $200, or even $150, would help. But it might get the same level of impact only if Google is the first to a "quality" tablet that costs only $99. If Google would do that first and promote the heck out of it and what you can do with it, I think many millions of people would want one.
I doubt they could do it this year, but early next year with the 2nd generation it might be possible. But they better do it before Amazon. Because Amazon will definitely go that direction, since their intention is to only sell a massive amount of such devices, to get users to pay for their content.
This is yet another They Gonna Get You Google! article of the sort that we've seen since the days that Android was a pretty sucky wannabe. It is weird that -- with all the success that Android has seen -- people can keep with the same song list as if nothing as changed.
In order to convince the manufacturers that they should switch from something they completely controlled to something that another company controlled, they needed to know that it would be cheaper and still allow them to generate a strong brand loyalty.
For example, HTC has the Sense UI which makes their Android phones look and feel a little different. You might think that this is a stupid waste of HTC's time, but in 2 years when you get a new phone, they want you to get an HTC, not an Android.
This is critical in understanding why Google cannot tightly control Android. If the phone manufacturers see that they're losing the ability to differentiate their own brand, they'll look at other options.
... which was Symbian. Android in the new Symbian - omnipresent but much more capable.
Even with tablets, Google is far better off with there being two players successful in this space, rather than it being just Apple and irrelevant "also rans" from Samsung, etc. Given the understandable lack of carrier interest in subsidizing tablet marketing, Amazon stepping up to the plate is probably the most cost effective win Google could hoped for.
- Nexus tablet is on the way, don't worry, Google will put it out.
- Chrome is already on Android, and the codebases are being merged right now in the chromium tree.
- we might see a preview of Android 5 at Google I/O, but will have to wait the end of the year to see it ship.
This graph is apparently from the Forrester report quoted in the article. How does one come up with this? So in 2015, Windows8 (9?) will all of a sudden gain some good traction at the expense of Android market share but not iOS? How do you interpolate constant demand for iOS devices 4 years into the future when the first iPad is only 2 years old?
It would even be a (pretty major) competitive advantage if you think about it, considering nobody does that, and there are quite a lot of people that want stock Android. The other manufacturers have no reason to complain, since they can always do the same, too. And if they were so against a stock version of the OS, they would have never used WP7. But they did, so that tells me that they wouldn't be that upset about it.
Of course, the carriers will still find it in their interest to shove bloatware onto people.
If Google ships the OS code to all partners (including Motorola) at the same time and Motorola just worries about getting the OS running on their hardware while everyone else worries about that plus porting their own custom UI toolkits over, that's a win for Motorola, but not because they got the code any sooner.
The win is due to the other partners wasting time competing on something that most users don't care about or if they do, actually prefer stock Android, at least IME and at least since 2.2. Earlier versions of Android than 2.2 actually had some UI warts worth fixing but now the custom UIs are generally inferior to stock and exist pretty much solely due to inertia against abandoning them and company politics, IMO.
If the hardware manufacturers really want to differentiate themselves they should do so via hardware, form-factors, novel input methods (like the Galaxy Note) and add-ons (like Playstation compatibility in Sony's case), not by messing with the core UI.
Hint: When Siri came out, everyone with a Droid phone wanted it too. When the feature complete competitor comes out in full force, probably in Android 5? they will all be hilariously frustrated with how they can't use it because they have a 2 year old phone.
In fact I'm not sure I understand why Siri isn't available on the iPhone 4/iPad 2, etc.
Google is endlessly iterating their core service applications - mapping, navigation, voice recognition, gmail, places, and so on. With Chrome they are quite welcomely decoupling the browser (long overdue), though that is one of the only major dependencies on ICS.
The notion that the operating system needs to iterate for Google to move the base forward is not accurate.
Which is interesting seeing the focus on ICS, which makes me wonder whether we're past the point of diminishing returns. People desperately wanted each of the prior iterations because they fixed fundamental flaws in the operating system (e.g. slow runtimes, bloat, etc). From Gingerbread to ICS, however, is largely a "meh" affair on smartphones. Of course new devices come with it, but for the existing base it just isn't that compelling.
Honestly I see virtually no difference between 2.3 and 4.0 on the Galaxy S II when it comes to scrolling, etc. Indeed, if you turn on the development option that blinks the screen red when the main thread is blocked, it occurs all the time in the basic operating services and in most apps.
Which correlates with the argument made by Hackman (? Hackwell?) regarding GPU offloading not being the actual issue: Instead it's the OS still not, essentially, giving enough respect to the UI. This still isn't a solved problem, beyond simple brute-forcing it (e.g. a HTC One X).
There is yet one more option for Google: instead of moving towards more copyright, move towards copyleft. At the very least, requiring derivative source code to be published would allow the various Android derivatives to build off the work from each other, and allow work to be reintegrated back into the core. Taking it even further, prevention of hardware restrictions on software modification (GPLv3) would encourage modifying and swapping Android derivatives.
Again, Google has to worry about adoption if they make their license more restrictive (and GPLv3 is definitely more restrictive for the makers of derivative works). But if they continue to release excellent software, and there continues to be a lack of viable alternatives, they might get away with it.
Google is creepy. I think the web would be better off without their prying eyes. Specially since they are in bed with the US government just like everybody else in America.